Stadium negotiations intensify (again) at Capitol

The House tax committee green-lighted the proposal to expand charitable gambling to include electronic pull tabs, bingo and sports-themed tip boards tonight, following a sometimes contentious three-hour hearing.

Republicans fended off challenges from the right and left to the plan. Taxpayer’s League president Phil Krinkie told legislators the $50 million in new revenue the plan brought in amounted to new taxes. DFLers tried to earmark the money to pay for a Vikings stadium, repairs to the state Capitol, a bonding package and paying back the school shift.

Minneapolis DFL Rep. Jim Davnie praised the bonding amendment’s proposed “asset preservation.”

The effort drew a sharp rebuke from Republican Sarah Anderson of Plymouth: “Asset preservation…” Anderson said. “The only asset preservation going on here today is you trying to preserve your asset and the fact that you voted down the bonding bill here today. You killed it. You killed the opportunity for the only jobs plan that you’ve had this session to spend more money and incur more debt. I think this is an insult… This is nothing but political gamesmanship.”

DFLer Ann Lenczewski, of Bloomington, who offered the bonding amendment, had a one-word initial response: “Wow.” She later withdrew the bonding measure.

The discussion eventually settled down, and the panel approved the charitable gambling bill on a voice vote.

Bill sponsor John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, said he was glad to get the measure cleanly through the committee, without fighting over the stadium for too long.

“I want to make sure we take care of the charities and the bars, those small businesses across the state. That’s the focus. If the Vikings stadium bill gets revived, if there’s a shot for it, then I’m cool with this being the funding source,” Kriesel said afterward. “From the start, that was the position on it. But things weren’t looking so good today. Things aren’t looking good at this minute, so you have to be flexible.”

The bill is moving next to the House Ways and Means committee.

Meanwhile, the stadium issue has popped up again in the Senate. Late tonight three separate Vikings stadium bills, from Lino Lakes Republican Roger Chamberlain, South St. Paul DFLer Jim Metzen, and Fairmont Republican Julie Rosen were placed on the Local Government committee agenda for tomorrow, nearly a month after that same panel first took up the stadium.

A report in the Los Angeles Daily News that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf’s private plane had been spotted in southern California also caused a stir at the Capitol during the hearing. The NFL has been looking at either relocating a team or expanding in Los Angeles.

And in Minnesota Friday morning, League commissioner Roger Goodell and Pittsburgh Steelers owner and NFL stadium committee chair Art Rooney, II are scheduled to meet with state leaders.

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