ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The $1 billion Minnesota Vikings stadium bill narrowly survived a skewering late Friday in the Senate Taxes Committee, which moved the bill to the full Senate as the team's decade-long push for a new home drew closer to a resolution.
It was the toughest test yet for the proposed stadium subsidy, which is expected to now face marathon debates and close votes in the House and Senate. Lawmakers hope to adjourn their session for the year by midnight Monday, and the stadium saga is likely to fill those closing hours with plenty of drama.
The bill to build a new stadium on the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis needs 68 votes in the House and 34 votes in the Senate to pass. All the committee votes that took the bill to both the House and Senate floors were "without recommendation," a sign that many lawmakers have strong qualms about a $400 million stadium subsidy. Team officials call the 30-year-old Metrodome outdated and unprofitable.
The current proposal calls for an expansion of gambling in bars and clubs, with the newly generated tax revenue going to cover yearly costs of paying off construction bonds.
Foes of that funding source criticized it as unreliable and immoral, and moved to replace the gambling revenue with sales taxes on all transactions in the new stadium.
"It's about making it market-based rather than taking revenue from everyone," said Sen. John Howe, a Republican who put forward the plan. "The people who use the stadium the most are the ones who should pay for it the most."
But the Vikings and their legislative allies strenuously objected to that approach. Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said it would cost the NFL team money -- which, he said, would mean functionally abandoning the negotiated deal between Vikings executives, members of Gov. Mark Dayton's administration and the city of Minneapolis. That deal calls for the Vikings to cover $427 million of the $1 billion cost, and the city of Minneapolis to put up $150 million.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press