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Expected bill offering stadium financing alternative doesn’t surface

GOP Sen. Roger Chamberlain ‘s legislation was expected to come before a Senate committee Monday, but the meeting ended with no mention of the bill.

Despite expectations, an alternative to last week’s $975 million Vikings stadium proposal didn’t surface Monday at the Capitol.

 GOP Sen. Roger Chamberlain was supposed to bring the legislation before the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, but the meeting ended with no mention of the bill.

Chamberlain said after the meeting that there simply wasn’t enough time to hear the bill and that it would likely come up again next week.

It’s unclear if the measure even had enough votes to pass, and it could have been taken off the agenda because the sponsors were afraid it would die in its first committee.

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In the past, proponents for expanded gambling have had to engage in committee maneuvers to ensure their proposals remained publicly viable.

Under Chamberlain’s proposal, the state would offer $300 million in bonds to fund a stadium that would be paid back by user fees imposed on items from tickets and concessions up to naming rights for the building.

It’s essentially the “framework” for a larger deal later on.

Chamberlain said his proposal would have to pass through six or seven committees before it could come to a full vote, and he said it’s meant as an alternative to the flawed proposal he said the Vikings brought forward last week.

“I’m just simply offering an alternative,” Chamberlain said. “This is how you do business deals. They present their plan, and we presented one as well.”

The senator from Lino Lakes said using expanded gambling like “electronic pull tabs” in bars is “unstable at best and volatile at worst” when financing a project like a stadium.

If he were the leader of a private company, Chamberlain said he would get into a lot of trouble for agreeing to such a risky proposal.

“If I took the Vikings’ proposal, I could be civilly and criminally liable for gross misconduct and negligence,” he said of the hypothetical situation.

Chamberlain and the other three GOP co-authors want to attract strong support from Minnesota’s business community to fund a stadium. To entice private investment, the bill proposes significant business property tax relief.

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“We’re offering the framework and an opportunity for the Vikings and the private sector to take the lead in creating this stadium,” he said.

The House version of the measure includes two DFL co-authors, and Chamberlain said bipartisanship is crucial for stadium legislation to pass. He’s working on recruiting Democrats in the Senate.

Chamberlain said his main motivation for opposing the existing deal is to protect the taxpayers of Minnesota. He points to polls that indicate most Minnesotans don’t want to finance a Vikings stadium.

“I didn’t get on this because I wanted to be popular, because it’s clearly not a popular thing,” he said. “I’m on it because I want to take up a position that the citizens of the state should have, and they haven’t been represented in this.”

Even though he’s going against the governor and the Vikings, Chamberlain said he’s confident the measure could pass later in the session if the current deal doesn’t pan out. He met with Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday to discuss the proposal.

“He was open to it,” Chamberlain said. “He didn’t shut it down.”

The Vikings have said that the measure doesn’t fit the size of Minnesota’s market and could put the team at a disadvantage.