Dayton lobbies Legislature as stadium hearing starts

Gov. Dayton sent a letter to members of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee urging them to approve a Vikings stadium bill. The committee is the first stop for the bill and it isn’t certain whether the bill will make it through committee. Dayton reminded lawmakers that the financing from the electronic pull-tab is solid despite reports otherwise.

“I believe it is sound, reliable and sufficient to finance the state’s share of this project,” Dayton wrote. “Anyone who says otherwise is speaking without my authorization and is seriously misrepresenting my position. Futhermore, everyone trying to dismantle this proposal, without offering a better one, is clearly trying to defeat this bill”

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chair Ted Mondale and Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley urged the committee to pass the bill. He said the Metrodome has outlived its usefulness.

“It’s the smallest stadium in the league,” Bagley said. “It will no longer sustain an NFL team. We’re at the bottom of the NFL in stadium revenues and fan experience.”

Several business and labor leaders also signaled their support for the bill.

Mondale told the committee that state’s $398 million contribution will be returned by taxes from player salaries, Vikings employees, other teams and sales taxes from the games.

“The state payback in gross dollars over a 33 year period of time would be $450 million more that the state would get back than the state would put in on this particular project.”

But several members expressed skepticism about those numbers. Sen. Roger Chamberlain cited studies that said sports stadiums don’t generate the expected return on investment.

“I want a stadium, I want you guys to stay here but I think the impact and the return to the state has proven to be zero.”

Other critics, including a lobbyist for the Minnesota Family Council, said expanding electronic gambling is bad public policy.

“We’re going to build a stadium to a significant degrees on the backs of problem gamblers,” Prichard said. “In fact, the state will have a vested interst in having more people become addicted to and spend more money gambling over a 30 year period in order to pay off the bonds.”

It isn’t certain whether the committee will approve the bill. Bipartisan supporters of the stadium were busy working legislators before the committee started.

Here’s Dayton’s letter:

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