The state Capitol was ringing Monday with familiar echoes.
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.
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.
“I don’t know,” Dayton said. “I’m here.”
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.