Minnesota governor balks at new taxes to fund Vikings stadium

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Gov. Mark Dayton ruled out a tax increase as a way to help pay for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium on Tuesday, blowing a $350 million hole in the team's plan to build a $1.1 billion home in the suburbs north of the Twin Cities.

Stadium supporters on the Ramsey County Board had proposed raising the county sales tax by half a cent to come up with the $350 million local share of the overall cost. But Dayton, after conferring with leading lawmakers from both parties, said there is not enough support in the Legislature to exempt any proposed tax increase from a public vote -- either in Ramsey County, or in Minneapolis if a stadium plan lands there instead.

Without that exemption, a vote couldn't be held until November 2012, long after the team wants construction to begin. And most observers believe voters would reject any tax increase to fund a replacement for the Metrodome, where the Vikings are in the final year of their lease.

The stumbling block is likely to put renewed attention on three potential locations for a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis: the current Metrodome site, and two sites near the Minnesota Twins' Target Field. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak quickly issued a press release after Dayton's announcement, calling his city "the best location for the Vikings, because it is the least expensive."

Dayton and others have said they take seriously the possibility that the Vikings will leave for another city without a new stadium. The Minneapolis sites are likely to offer a lower overall price tag, since the Arden Hills land is a former Army ammunition plant, and expected to carry significant added costs tied to environmental cleanup.

Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said the team's focus remains on partnering with Ramsey County despite the setback.

"We have to put our heads together with our partner and see how we can move this project forward," Bagley said, adding. "We think we have the ideal site. There are finance options on the table to make this happen."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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