Proposal tied to statewide phase out of business property taxes

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

Area Republican lawmakers look to the use of state revenue bonds and incentives to business to build a new Vikings’ stadium.

Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, proposes the use of user fees to bond for $300 million — the exact bonding amount is negotiable, he explained — and the elimination of the state-wide business property tax as a method of luring business to get involved in building a stadium.

“We were elected to solve problems,” said Chamberlain at a Capitol press conference on Thursday, Feb. 23. He pronounced his stadium approach as “doable.”

Although a variety of gambling options have been proposed to fund a stadium — pull-tabs, racino  — Chamberlain deems gambling the most volatile and uncertain funding source possible.

Others agreed.

“It’s just not going to happen,” said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, of pulling together a stadium deal that includes gambling.

Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, a bill supporter, also argued the votes simply aren’t there.

Additionally, in terms of gambling expansion, Chamberlain questions why someone playing pull-tabs in Warroad should be contributing towards the construction of a stadium they’re likely never, or rarely, to visit.

Chamberlain estimates that a revenue stream of about $23 million a year would be needed to pay for $300 in bonding.

He looks to a variety of “user fees” as a means of generating the revenue. Tickets, food and beverages, stadium signage, parking within a half-mile of the stadium — Chamberlain in the past has indicated his support for an Arden Hills’ stadium site — and other items could be subject to a 10 percent user fee.

Chamberlain, in his bill, exempts building materials for constructing the stadium from the state sales tax.

He also calls for a privately owned, privately operated stadium in which the Vikings would play all of their home games for 30 years or until repayment of the bonds, whichever is first.

The average business, Hann explained, if seeking assistance from the state would find Chamberlain’s bill acceptable.

“I think they would say, ‘That’s a good deal,’” Hann said.

As for the $800 million statewide business property tax phase out, Chamberlain’s legislation styles it an incentive for business to contribute towards stadium funding.

If motivated, the Vikings and Minnesota business could strike all kinds of deals to help build a stadium, Chamberlain argues.

“This is new wealth — new jobs,” he said of cutting business property taxes.

His bill leaves the Vikings with the ability to spend as much money as they see fit on a stadium, Chamberlain explained. As for the details of the stadium proposal — whether the stadium is roofed or not — that’s up to the team and local partner to determine, he said.

“The citizens have told us they don’t want to pay for this,” said Chamberlain of building a new Vikings’ stadium.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton looked with disfavor at Chamberlain’s bill.

“The party of property tax increases is at it again,” said Dayton in a statement.

“Some Republican legislators now want to force me into accepting their scheme for eliminating all property taxes on businesses in order to get their approval for a new “People’s Stadium,’” he said.

“I will not raise taxes on the people of Minnesota to build a new stadium – not property taxes and not any other general tax. I will continue to work cooperatively with the Republican authors of the stadium bill, their DFL colleagues, the city of Minneapolis, and others, who want to find a responsible way to put several thousand Minnesotans back to work,” said Dayton.

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