Now the get-real negotiations on stadium begin

State Sen. Julie Rosen

Now the get-real negotiations begin.

After a long day and night of debate and maneuvers in the Minnesota Senate, a conference committee is meeting today to begin hammering out major differences between bills approved by lawmakers in the House and Senate to build a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis .

And there will be a lot of negotiating to do.

Not only do the bills differ on the team’s total share in costs to build the new stadium, but also on the amount of new gambling revenue that goes to the state to pay for some of those costs. The Senate also took a more taxpayer-friendly turn by preventing broadcast blackouts and preventing the team from having a five-year monopoly on bringing a soccer franchise to the stadium.

It was chaos in the Senate Tuesday, far from the choreographed vote the House took on the $975 million stadium proposal Monday. Debate in the Senate lasted for more than 10 hours and unlikely factions fought vigorously against the bill until the end. It passed the chamber 38 to 28, with Democrats offering 22 votes and Republicans bringing 16.

Republicans and Democrats found each other strange bedfellows in their attempts to make the bill more palatable for those who opposed the gambling funding mechanism or disapproved of a large public subsidy for a private sports team.

The Senate version, even before it was amended nearly 20 times on the floor, differed significantly from its House counterpart. The stadium package, which finally cleared both chambers after months of negotiations, almost died multiple times throughout the process.

Now the House and Senate must meet to iron out their differences, and then the compromise must be passed again in both houses before heading to Gov. Mark Dayton to become law.

As it stands, there are some serious differences between the bills. A House amendment would force the Vikings to pay $105 million more than previously required, while the Senate voted to increase the team’s share by only $25 million.

The original agreement between the team and lawmakers would have used enhanced charitable gambling — electronic pull-tabs and linked bingo — to finance the state’s share, which totaled $398 million. The Vikings would have contributed about $427 million, and Minneapolis would put in $150 million.

The House, which faced strong resistance to the bill, in the end handily passed the measure 73 to 58. Members largely followed chief author Rep. Morrie Lanning’s direction when it came to amending the bill.

But Sen. Julie Rosen, the Senate lead, had her hands full. The most conservative faction of the Republican caucus and the most liberal members of the Senate DFLers found themselves working together to radically redefine the bill. They almost succeeded, but stadium supporters managed to save the plan through a series of re-votes and a deft parliamentary move.

Still, it was remarkable to watch such ideologically opposed lawmakers work together with such ease and efficiency in an attempt to influence the legislation.

“The walls of partisanship have been broken down,” GOP Sen. Ted Lillie declared to the chamber, commenting how diverse partnerships between DFLers and Republicans had been forged in opposition to the stadium proposal that eventually passed.

Distrust rampant

Despite assurances that everyone wanted to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, lawmakers in the Senate gathered into small clusters of support and dissent over the bill.

Distrust was rampant throughout the long hours of debate, and different members often accused others of trying to tank the plan or jam it through without serious consideration.

A group of supporters was convinced that the most conservative element of the Senate was trying to kill the bill since lawmakers only have days left before they’re constitutionally required to adjourn.

“There are forces at work that do not want to build a stadium,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk told his colleagues. “Clearly there are some other forces at work that are trying to run the clock out on this session.”

State Sen. John Howe
MinnPost photo by James NordSen. John Howe authored an amendment that would change out the Vikings stadium would be paid for.

GOP Sen. John Howe proposed a particularly contentious amendment that would have moved the stadium proposal’s funding mechanism from updated electronic charitable gambling to “user fees” on suites, merchandise, tickets and concessions. Howe told his colleagues that gambling was an unfair and untested source of money.

“We can build this stadium, folks. We can build it. And we can do it in a responsible manner,” he said. “We have a way of financing this stadium in a reasonable and appropriate manner.”

Likewise, DFL Sen. John Marty, who supported the user-fee amendment, attempted to amend the Vikings proposal so that it wouldn’t be exempted from the Minneapolis city charter, which requires a referendum on sports projects that cost more than $10 million.

But Rosen (whose bill contained some fees) and others opposed financing the stadium solely through fan-generated funds because it would drive up ticket prices and the Vikings oppose the move. They also said Marty’s amendment would undo the agreement that Minneapolis had secured with its City Council.

Minutes after Marty’s amendment had passed, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak began criticizing the amendment. After a heated debate, the amendment was overturned.

Howe worked for six hours to craft his user-fee amendment until it fit into the bill. After it passed by a slim majority, the body again reversed the vote.

All of this was enough for the unlikely coalition of ideologically diverse lawmakers to accuse stadium supporters of bending to big business, big government and big labor to jam the bill through.

“We had two votes today where amendments were passed that in good conscience members in there felt the Vikings were overreaching or that we were giving them too much or doing the wrong thing, and after a time, the votes got reconsidered,” Sen. Dave Thompson, an ardent stadium proposal opponent, said after the vote.“What happened in the intervening time? We had lobbyists. We had people who were interested in getting this bill passed twisting arms. It is your classic special interest politics gone wild.”

And while the senators schemed and pointed fingers on the floor, the fans sat in the Senate gallery. Three children waited patiently in the front row of the bleachers. A little girl, who wore a tiny jersey and Vikings pajama pants, just looked bored.

“Can they just vote for it?” she asked her mom.

Before that final vote, though, the Senate had a couple of other non-stadium, business-friendly proposals to add.

With time running out on efforts to revive the GOP’s recently vetoed business tax relief bill,  members decided to  salvage two key parts of the package and tack them on the stadium bill.

One provision would extend Bloomington’s tax-increment financing districts for the planned Mall of America addition, which advocates say will create thousands of construction jobs. The Senate also added language that would require Internet retailers to collect Minnesota sales tax – a move seen as helping to level the playing field between online retailers and bricks-and-mortar stores in the state.

Next step

With the conference committee beginning to meet today to work out differences in the House and Senate bills, Rosen said she’s confident the Vikings will have to pay a larger share than their original $427 million. She also said she would start negotiating at the Senate’s position of $25 million in additional funding. Minneapolis is still on the hook for $150 million under both proposals.

Right now, the House would require the Vikings to pay $532 million and the state to pitch in $293 million. The Senate proposed a more modest $452 million contribution from the team and a $373 million state share.

But Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley had little to offer Monday night on the House deal. He was equally vague Tuesday.

“There are a lot of issues still to be sorted through,” he said, saying the team would stick to the original plan. We have to put everybody together and sort out a deal.”

The Dayton administration had no comment early Wednesday morning.

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Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/09/2012 - 10:21 am.

    So, We’re Actually Going to Get a “Stadium Bill”

    Out of this conference committee, but it’s almost certain to have features that the owners said they wouldn’t accept.

    The most important question for me is whether the Vikings will actually take their marbles and go to wherever their NEW “home” is going to be (if there even is such a place), or we’ll discover that the legislature has successfully called their bluff.

    I’m hoping for the latter, but won’t be upset in the least if it turns out to be the former.

    One little piece of curiosity, however. If the Vikings DO turn down this deal by leaving, what happens to the expansion of gambling and all the other facets of this bill? Is the bill worded in such a way that those things evaporate if there’s no stadium to be built, or will we be stuck with them anyway?

  2. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 05/09/2012 - 10:47 am.

    I wish I could say that this bill (whatever emerges) is calling their bluff. Even if the conference committee opts for calling for the extra 105 million, the team still gets almost half of their stadium paid for by public dollars. They may whine a bit about how this breaks their previous “deal”, which likely will get the conference committee to go closer to the Senate’s extra 25 million (vs. 105), but I think everyone knows that the Wilf’s are quite happy with themselves and their lobbyists this morning. I should be so unfortunate in my haggling that I’m forced to take a 40% subsidy of my next house…

  3. Submitted by David Greene on 05/09/2012 - 11:40 am.

    Tax Amendments

    It’s interesting that the TIF and sales taxes proposals were allowed on the bill. Apparently the germaneness rule can be skirted when convenient.

    I don’t like the TIF idea but absolutely support the sales tax reform. It’s long overdue. However the process to get there stinks.

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/09/2012 - 07:17 pm.

      Germaneness can’t be skirted

      because it’s one of the several provisions of the Minnesota Constitution that prevents certain kinds of private or special legislation. If the bill that emerges does skirt the germaneness requirement or violate any of the other provisions, this could give some group of opponents the grounds they need to throw it into the Courts.

  4. Submitted by EP Barnes on 05/09/2012 - 11:54 am.


    This entire flurry of activity to force this boondoggle down our throats has infuriated me because so many people simply, easily, willingly “drank the Kool-Aid” of fear that the Vikings served up with the NFL’s recent lobbying visit to MN. MinnPost clearly stated the financial facts and pointed out the formidable problems that would ensue if the Vikings were to leave MN. What they are going to be paying into this stadium is chump change compared to what it would cost for them to follow through with their threats to leave. Shame on our “representatives” and shame on Dayton for buying into the nonsense that the Vikings were serving up.

  5. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/09/2012 - 12:59 pm.

    Rybak fought to control Sen Marty

    Interesting to me is that Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak seemed to be the only representative of Minneapolis’s government who was at the Senate debate, and controlling what happened to any part of the Vikings’ deal that might contradict his negotiations with big downtown business people.

    It seems from this article’s summary that after Sen. Marty’s amendment to remove the charter avoidance (i.e., to require a referendum on the expense of $890 million Minneapolis dollars for this stadium, long term), Rybak forced the Senate to renege on a vote it had just taken. He had help from several Minneapolis-area politicians, either through silence or active agreement. No one present represented the people of Minneapolis in this whole thing except Roseville’s Sen. Marty..

    The Senate, like the House, is insulting when it says that there a Minneapolis City Council support of this deal: Rybak got letters, shifty letters, from seven of the thirteen Council members to support the Vikings. That’s all. They’ll have to vote, though, within 30 days.

    The six who opposed the Vikings stadium didn’t go to St. Paul to defend Minneapolis taxpayers, or even to urge some activity from our silent Senators.

    This is all so sad.

  6. Submitted by Nick Magrino on 05/09/2012 - 01:05 pm.

    Actually, they will…

    If you’re deducting your home mortgage interest on your income taxes, you’ll probably end up getting the government to pay for about 40% percent of your house.

  7. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 05/09/2012 - 01:34 pm.

    The Lie That Won’t Die

    “The Vikings would have contributed about $427 million, and Minneapolis would put in $150 million.”

    Not true. Or “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!”

    Zygi has never committed himself or the Vikings to a number for the amount of his contribution to this misguided stadium deal. To say that they’re going to contribute “about” $427 million is being disingenuous, to be charitable. Why the legislature hasn’t required him to commit to a firm number of his own money and a firm number for NFL loan money is a question the media should have been asking, demanding answers to, and publicizing if they didn’t get any answers.

    The fact that they never did and still aren’t asking the tough questions makes this the biggest local media failure, and an indictment of the news media in general.

    According to previous reporting, Wilf could get up to $200 million as a loan from the NFL, so that clouds the $427 million figure considerably. Given what we know about the current situation, I’d wager that Zygi intends to take that full $200 million loan, which would make his actual contribution toward this stadium to be no more than $227 million.

    But that’s the thing everyone conveniently overlooks: NFL loan money is not Vikings money. The NFL and the Vikings are separate corporations, so you can’t commingle one pile of money with the other and call it “Vikings” money.

    You’ve still got time to derail this thing before it gets passed and signed into law, so call your representatives and the Governor. Storm the Capitol and protest loudly if you have to, but it’s past time that our representatives start answering to The People.

  8. Submitted by Steven Mayer on 05/09/2012 - 03:11 pm.

    Vikings stadium / design review

    I certainly hope the new stadium will be sunk into the ground at least half-way, as the present stadium is, or else the thing will be way too tall and dominate the city skyscape.

  9. Submitted by Joe Musich on 05/09/2012 - 03:55 pm.

    which people

    Still, it was remarkable to watch such ideologically opposed lawmakers work together with such ease and efficiency in an attempt to influence the legislation.-

    This is what’s happening ? I do not think there’s a together in there.

    The question. Is who is truly representing the majority of people ? Rybek sure is not representing the people of mpls. As was said. Maybe build the thing by taxing every word in every discussion regarding this ode to a life of broken bones and concussions.

  10. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 05/09/2012 - 07:50 pm.

    This is where it gets ugly

    It’s in the conference committee where it can get really ugly. Look for some major rollbacks to get back to the original (poorly) negotiated deal.

  11. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/10/2012 - 06:24 am.

    Stadium opposition

    I think what we are seeing is a lot of phony opposition to the stadium in the legislature. Legislators want the stadium, they just don’t want to be seen supporting it. It really should not be the case that outstate legislators like Sen. Rosen or Rep. Lanning should have a role in setting Minneapolis policy, policy which Minneapolis taxpayers, not those taxpayers from their constituencies, have the burden of paying for. The only reason that’s happening, I think, is that those Minneapolis legislators are not actively opposing the stadium. They are, rather, just going into the tank for it.

    What the voters don’t understand, and what the press, in this case one biased for the stadium, won’t tell them is that there are many ways to support something, and many ways to oppose something. Getting stadiums built is as much a matter of eliminating or neutralizing barriers as it is of getting votes. They can be stopped in all sorts of ways in the legislative process in ways for which it’s hard to legislators accountable. That’s why a lot of bad legislation never sees the light of day. That isn’t happening now with the stadium. The stadium has the votes it needs to get passed, mostly from outstate legislators whose constituents are getting a free ride, the benefit of a stadium without the burden of paying for it. And it’s getting what it needs from Minneapolis legislators, who while voting against the stadium, are busily removing themselves from any effort that might hinder it’s passage.

    Voters often tell me that they are going to vote against all incumbents. The smoke and mirrors surrounding the stadium issue is, I think, a pretty good argument in support of that.

  12. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 05/10/2012 - 07:00 am.

    the fix is in

    There is no drama left, the fix is in. We’re just waiting for them to tell us what they already agreed on when they were picking up their profit sharing checks out at Winter Park. The only thing missing from the hypocritically named People’s Stadium is the will of the people. Long Live Money!

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/10/2012 - 07:30 am.


    Something that makes me impatient is when people ask questions like “Is this good for Minneapolis?” as if there is some distinction to be made between Minneapolis and it’s residents and its taxpayers. Stadiums aren’t really much good for Minneapolis residents as such. The vast majority of us derive no benefit at all from living in proximity to them, as distinguished from other residents of the state. The service industries the stadiums support would do quite nicely without them. Indeed as long as someone is spending four hours in a stadium, that’s four hours on a valuable commercial weekend potential customers can’t spend out shopping, or dining, or getting a beer. This is why shopping malls don’t have movie theaters anymore.

    I don’t dislike service industry jobs. I think it’s great that we have bartenders. I think it’s great that Wally the beer man has a job, or I guess he doesn’t at the moment. But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that creating low wage, benefit deprived, part time jobs is any sort of solution to the real, long term, economic problems that confront us, or that putting huge taxpayer dollars in the creation of such jobs is a sound investment in our economic future.

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