Minnesota Vikings stadium bill not ready for hearing yet

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Most Republican lawmakers who control Minnesota's Legislature never met a tax increase they liked, but a handful said Thursday that the state's portion of the cost of a new Minnesota Vikings stadium should be funded with new taxes on the team and its fans -- rather than with revenue from an expansion of legal gambling.

It was the latest twist in the stadium bill's rocky ride at the Minnesota Capitol. The bill's rapid-fire progress of recent days slowed noticeably Thursday, with an expected hearing in the Senate Taxes Committee delayed until at least Friday. That leaves a shrinking window of time to get the $1 billion stadium proposal to the desk of a supportive Gov. Mark Dayton, with legislative leaders aiming to finish up their 2012 session by Monday at midnight.

Dayton and other stadium supporters contend failure to act this year could cost Minnesota its NFL franchise.

The delay in the Senate, as supporters worked to get the bill in good enough shape to survive a grilling from numerous stadium critics on the panel, also slowed the bill in the House where it awaits a floor vote. The chief House sponsor, Rep. Morrie Lanning, said a House vote was not likely until the stadium bill clears the Senate's committee process.

The bill's delay left critics of the current proposal time to momentarily grab the spotlight. A group of Republican lawmakers denounced the expansion of legal gambling in the bill, which would let Minnesota charities offer new, electronic versions of games of chance they operate in bars and clubs.

"It's in our Republican Party platform that we don't support expansion of gambling," said Rep. Mike Benson. He said when the bill does reach the House floor, he'd move to remove the gambling expansion in favor of income and sales tax increases related to professional sports.

Benson said he'd propose a 4-percent income tax surcharge on Vikings players and executives who earn more than $200,000 a year; sales tax increases on sports memorabilia, liquor and purchases in the new stadium; and a sales tax on online purchases of NFL merchandise.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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