Familiar talk — stadium, jobs climate and casino — echoes through Capitol

The state Capitol was ringing Monday with familiar echoes.

R.T. Rybak
R.T. Rybak

There were Republicans talking about how government must get out of the way to create job growth.

And there was the governor holding another meeting about a Vikings’ stadium. This session involved Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who says the city is ready to get back into the stadium game, with a plan similar to one he first talked about in May.

And there was recurring chatter about a casino. 

A political refresher course
Before getting onto details of the echoes, I wanted to review a little lesson in Minnesota politics that Republicans apparently have not yet learned. It involves scheduling.

The lesson: News editors at newspapers, websites, television and radio stations have determined that the Vikings’ stadium is the No. 1 Capitol story. So, trying to compete with the top story comes at your own peril.

Competing meetings created a bit of a problem Monday for GOP senators, who staged their news event at 11 a.m., the same time Rybak was scheduled to show up at the governor’s office.

As a result, there was not a single TV camera in the room when Sen. Geoff Michel, chair of the Senate’s jobs committee, was to unveil the big announcement that Minnesota “job creators” are begging for lower taxes and less regulation.

Sen. Geoff Michel
Sen. Geoff Michel

Michael Brodkorb rushed to John Stiles, who is Rybak’s communications director.

Brodkorb said something like “Can we borrow your TV cameras for a minute?”

Stiles was surprised by the request because the cameras didn’t belong to him. They belong to the local television stations.

Nonetheless, a deal was arranged.

After getting video of Rybak walking into the governor’s office at 11, the camera operators hustled a few hundred feet to the room where the GOP senators were unveiling their discovery about the Minnesota economy.

Michel’s news event was delayed until the cameras had moved into place. Then, Michel and a couple of other GOP legislators made their announcement.

In recent weeks, they have traveled the state trying to learn from “the job creators” what the state can do to help create more private sector jobs. 

GOP restates its job climate priorities
The results of these statewide meetings, however, were a little short of stunning.

“Business leaders across our state tell us that we can help them by getting government out of their way, reducing regulatory and tax burdens and letting them do what they do best, create jobs,” Michel said.

Just why the GOPers decided they needed to travel about the state to learn this was the unanswered question. After all, the message was the same one Republicans have been delivering for years.

Presumably, they selected this time to repeat what they’ve repeatedly said in order to try to at least steal a few headlines from the governor the day before his job summit of all job summits. Dayton, recall, also has been traveling throughout the state, in his case holding summits to learn what Minnesota can do to provide more jobs.

There will be 13 companies represented at today’s summit of summits! There will be government officials!! There will be panels and round tables and group discussions!!!

It’s unclear whether there will be GOP lawmakers, although they apparently were invited.

Even if they don’t come, everyone knows their message.

“The message comes through loud and clear,” said Michel. “Government, please stop! Give us a break.”

Noting that Minnesota doesn’t just compete with South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin but the world as well, the GOP legislator Monday had a proposal.

“A moratorium on all regulations,” said Michel. “Stop! Time out.”

But not only that, Minnesota must cut the business property tax, with the goal of ultimately eliminating it, the GOP said..

The Republicans are so serious about cutting government, they’d create a government body — a Small Business Regulatory Review Committee — to oversee the cutting.

As soon as Michel and the others finished their familiar message, the camera operators and most of the reporters hustled out of the room and back down the hall to await the end of the Rybak-Dayton meeting.

Rybak offers ‘combo plan’
Cameras in place, Rybak came out of the meeting and announced that “we had a good meeting.”

He then indicated that Minneapolis is ready, willing — and perhaps able — to get into the battle to be the site of a future Vikings stadium. The plan he talked about isn’t so much different from the plan he unveiled back in May.

But, the mayor said, he’s stood on the sidelines to see how the Arden Hills plan would unfold. The Vikings want to be in Arden Hills, and some members of the Ramsey County Board want the team there, but it seems to have no other political traction.

That being the case, Rybak said it’s time for Minneapolis to get serious.

There are three locations in Minneapolis that would be less costly than Arden Hills, the mayor said.

He said that his preferred site remains the Metrodome property, but he’s also ready to go to work for a site behind the Basilica or the site that many heavy hitters in Minneapolis seem to prefer, the Farmers’ Market site.

The mayor said that if Hennepin County isn’t ready to be a player, Minneapolis is. The city, he said, would be the local partner and come up with stadium money — and funds to upgrade Target Center — through a city sales tax.

Does this mean a referendum?

“I don’t support a referendum,” Rybak said. “The referendum, I believe, is our elections.”

(An aside here: That may be easy for the mayor to say. For starters, he’s early in his third term as mayor.  Last time, he was opposed by a rather, ummm, nondescript group of candidates, allowing him to coast to victory.)

By combining a plan that would build the Vikings a stadium and refurbish Target Center through sales tax revenue, Rybak said the city could actually lower property taxes. Both those projects, he said, would still cost less than the $1.1 billion Arden Hills plan.

To complete the day of echoes, there was more talk of turning Block E into a downtown casino. Revenues from that could be the magic financial bullet to fund the public portion of the stadium cost.

“I think there are votes on the City Council for a casino, said Minneapolis Council President Barb Johnson.

The mayor said he’s not wild about the idea but did say that if revenues from the casino could be used to help a cross section of Minnesotans, he might get behind it.

Dayton still pushing stadium progress
After the mayor and Johnson left, the governor arrived before the cameras.

He was to have had a meeting with Republican legislative leaders Monday to discuss the Vikings. But …

“They weren’t available,” Dayton said.

Why?

“I don’t know,” Dayton said. “I’m here.”

Gov. Mark Dayton
MinnPost/James Nord
Gov. Mark Dayton

It’s pretty clear as to why Republicans weren’t available. They’ve got a political problem on their hands. They don’t want to lead the way on the Vikings stadium, because that would involve raising revenue. That’s bad.

They don’t want to be responsible if the team leaves the state. That could be worse. 

So they’re waiting for a way out of this, which is not new, either.

Meantime, Dayton said again that he is “site neutral” for a Vikings stadium, as long as that site remains in Minnesota.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Bob Weyandt on 10/25/2011 - 11:14 am.

    There are several questions regarding the Rybak’s proposals that beg for answers. Specifically:
    – Why would a sales tax increase in Minneapolis be any more palatable in Minneapolis than in Ramsey County?
    – Since the DFL seems to oppose competition for the Indian casinos and a fair number of GOP’ers oppose expansion of gambling on moral grounds, why does Rybak assume sufficient legislative support for a Block E casino?
    – Mayor Rybak claims the Minneapolis sites will cost less than the Arden Hills site. Are there any specific numbers and have they received sufficient scrutiny?
    – The Vikings clearly have no interest in the Metrodome. Why is this offered as an alternative?
    – Given it usage to date, won’t the Xcel/NSP site require a fair amount of clean-up?

  2. Submitted by craig furguson on 10/25/2011 - 12:00 pm.

    Yup, with his plan, the Mayor can shed much of the liability of the Target Center and lower property taxes. But at the cost of a 1/2 cent sales tax increase. And there is no indication that the GOP majority will let even Minneapolis raise taxes on themselves. They could quash it with the message, “We had to make them stop taxing themselves” (rather fun I think) A casino could fly and pass the no new taxes litmus test, but I don’t know if it would generate enough revenue.

  3. Submitted by greg copeland on 10/25/2011 - 12:38 pm.

    The 200,000 plus ‘officially’ jobless Minnesotans
    can only wonder why it took 10 months for Governor Dayton to hold his jobs summit today.

    Why did the Governor not invite anyone among the unemployed to attend this ‘sold-out’ event, as the Governor’s web site described it yesterday?

    This summit was just another gathering of the usual experts on creating full employment: the corporate clients of the public relations firm that organized this ‘jobs summit’, union leaders, the DEED Commissioner and his staff, mayors of cities large and small, the non-profit community, and of course chambers of commerce, all well intentioned ready to tell each other their secret recipes to ‘create jobs’ which was calculated to the produce PR Hype in the Minnesota media.

    Of the more than a dozen small group sessions, noted authors and wise speakers agendaed for their considerable knowledge of public policy to put Minnesota Back to Work, there was not one person seated among the 700 in this esteemed group to tell these good folks at the summit what the conditions on the ground are for those who are Minnesota’s unemployed.

    Unemployed workers know a simple truth; There are no jobs at the end of speeches filled with the usual Lake Woebegone praise for grand days and jobs that are gone…”out-sourced to the past” as one speaker declared.

    Mom used to say, Talk is Cheap, but she never got to a jobs summit, no cheap talk here; and no jobs either. The cheapest speakers, those out of work,
    were not invited and were not heard…an innovative model for a jobs summit…not so much.

  4. Submitted by Dan Kaufman on 10/25/2011 - 12:40 pm.

    Good article, and it now becomes clear how to connect these two issues- the stadium and government regulation limiting job growth.

    It seems the Republicans want to cut government regulation as a way to increase jobs and these jobs would presumable add to the state tax base.

    Therefore, let’s get rid of government regulations against gambling- open a bunch of unregulated casinos (and allow people to play craps, poker, etc on the street) and tax the profits some modest extent. This would raise plenty of funds for a new stadium, renovate Target Center, etc.

    While we are at it, why not get rid of other nuisance job-killing regulations that limit alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. This would open many more revenue streams. With the state playing the role of pimp and drug dealer, lots of money for a stadium. We could out-do Las Vegas (though of course, no pro teams in Vegas).

    What? Maybe Republicans don’t want to get rid of all government regulations? Well, which ones are good and which are bad? So hard to tell.

  5. Submitted by Pat McGee on 10/25/2011 - 01:05 pm.

    Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the State Legislature has to approve establishing a casino.

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/25/2011 - 02:05 pm.

    “trying to compete with the top story comes at your own peril.”

    And to prove it, Doug focuses 1/3 of his post on the GOP presser, which was reported on the MSM after all.

    Me thinks the lefty cheerleader doth protest TOO much.

  7. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/25/2011 - 04:22 pm.

    We have an agreement with Minnesota tribes that only the tribes can open casinos. To fail to honor that agreement by opening state-sponsored casinos would be wrong. And potentially devastating for the tribes.

    Those who (1) favor a stadium but do NOT want Ramsey County to pay over $300 for it ($600-plus million over the 30 years to pay it off) AND

  8. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/25/2011 - 04:27 pm.

    CONTINUED (I accidentally hit the wrong key)

    and (2) those who don’t want a stadium at all, please see http://www.nostadiumtax.info. You can there indicate that you would sign a petition being prepared by a new nonpartisan group that opposes making Ramsey County borrow this $300 million for an expense that should not be theirs (ours) alone.

  9. Submitted by Dan Hinton on 10/25/2011 - 06:09 pm.

    My father died 55 years ago. He was a huge supporter of the DFL and HHH. I wonder if Dad and Hubert would be as sad as I am to see Democrats Rybek and Dayton support efforts to force taxpayers, without a referendum, to subsidize one of the most lucrative businesses in America, the NFL, to the tune of $650,000,000.

    I thought it was the Democrats that looked after the interests of the less wealthy and less powerful, not the billionaires! Looks like the GOP got on the right side of this issue!

  10. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 10/26/2011 - 12:29 am.

    Bernice (#7) where are you getting the idea that there is an agreement that only tribes can open casinos? I looked at the gaming compact information on the state website and some tribal sites, and I don’t see anything like that at all. There is a requirement that the tribes can only open casinos on reservations, as opposed to other land they own, but the compacts don’t seem to have anything to do with the kind of gambling the state can or can’t offer.

    Again, if I missed something, please point me in the right direction. But it looks like you are arguing that an agreement that doesn’t actually exist should be honored.

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