Some Republicans want arts amendment money for Vikings stadium

Editor’s note: This report comes to you from MPR’s Tom Scheck and Tim Nelson. In full disclosure, my position is funded by Legacy Amendment money, so for ethical reasons I do not do any direct reporting on the topic.

St. Paul, Minn. — A Republican leader says some of his colleagues in the Minnesota Legislature are considering a plan that would rely on a portion of the state’s Legacy funds to pay for a new Vikings Stadium.

It’s an option they say must be considered as Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers continue to discuss how to pay for a stadium. Other options include ticket taxes, a sports memorabilia tax, slot machines at the state’s horse tracks or a new casino in downtown Minneapolis.

But critics say voters didn’t intend to use that money for professional sports stadiums when they approved a higher sales tax in 2008.

“I certainly think that taking a look at the Legacy money to fund a stadium is something that should be on the table,” said Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, an assistant Majority Leader in the Minnesota House.

There isn’t an organized effort by legislative leaders to tap the Legacy funds yet, Daudt said. But there is increasing talk among members and GOP staff that this may be the only way that the Republican-controlled House and Senate pass a Vikings stadium bill.

Daudt said the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund could generate about $50 million annually to finance the stadium. He said that would be enough to pay both the state’s and Ramsey County’s share but is unsure if that would be the plan.

“You certainly can’t argue that the Minnesota Vikings and these sports teams in the state of Minnesota aren’t a part of the state’s heritage and certainly part of the state’s legacy,” Daudt said.

The Legacy funding could also make it easier for Republicans to vote for a plan. There is bipartisan opposition to expanding gambling in Minnesota. Republicans fiercely oppose any tax increases. Many argue that a Ramsey County sales tax increase should be subject to a referendum — a move that Vikings officials said would kill the deal.

Tapping the legacy funds could also face significant opposition. Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, said he would go to court to stop any legislation that would spend Legacy Amendment funds for a Vikings stadium. Using the money for such a purpose would violate voter intent, he said.

“There was no discussion in any of the legislative committee hearings or on the floor of the House and Senate about professional sports and it clearly is contrary to what was discussed during a very extensive campaign in 2008,” Cohen said.

Voters in 2008 amended the constitution to require the state to collect a three-eighths of a cent sales tax for the outdoors, clean water, parks and the arts. Supporters of the idea argued that the money would be used to improve the state’s quality of life. Minnesota Public Radio is among hundreds of organizations that receive money from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Officials with outdoors groups also say it’s a bad idea. Don McMillan with the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance said even though the plan would not touch funding for the outdoors, parks and clean water, he worries it could be a slippery slope.

“Opening it up to other uses is a dangerous precedent,” McMillan said. “Once it starts there, I just fear that they’re going to come after the outdoor funds and the clean water funds and try to subvert them.”

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said he hasn’t heard of the proposal. He said the team is still committed to an Arden Hills site that relies on a half-cent sales tax in Ramsey County. The team is neutral on where the state’s portion of the funds come from, Bagley said.

“Bottom line on the funding source, it’s up to the state to determine what makes the most sense,” he said.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, who chairs the Legacy Committee in the Minnesota House, is also uncertain about the idea. He said he’s heard rumblings about using Legacy funds for a stadium but said there have been no formal discussions. Urdahl said the plan would not be his top choice but every possibility should be considered. He also cautioned that other funding mechanisms need to be in place as well.

“I would not be in favor of Legacy money being used to finance the entire portion of that,” Urdahl said. “If it came down to using Legacy money, it would have to be cobbled together with something else.”

A spokeswoman for the governor said he has not seen the plan and has no comment yet, but he appreciates anyone willing to make a constructive suggestion to settle the stadium issue.

  • http://wordstalkers.com sallyforth

    Legacy money is for the ARTS: literature, dance, music and more. And, to protect our wetlands and the nature that inspires literature, dance, music and more… Football? Kurt Daudt’s inability to discern the vast and obvious chasm between art and violent contact sport is yet another indication of just how out of touch with their constituents – and reality – the republicans have become.

  • Brian

    “Legacy money is for the ARTS: literature, dance, music and more. And, to protect our wetlands and the nature that inspires literature, dance, music and more… Football? Kurt Daudt’s inability to discern the vast and obvious chasm between art and violent contact sport is yet another indication of just how out of touch with their constituents – and reality – the republicans have become”

    So legacy money is fine as long as it supports things that YOU enjoy? Sorry, this isn’t YOUR world. Millions of people watch the Vikings every Sunday. Could you sound more like an elitist, hipster snob?

    It is possible to support both, you know?

  • Robert

    I just pulled up the history of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.

    I wanted to see the part that said “and then Sally Ordway wanted a great place to hear music so she decided that the taxpayers should build one. Because otherwise the Orchestra might leave town.”

    We cut money for schools and for health care in this legislative session. Now we’re back for a stadium session and considering robbing the Legacy piggybank. How much more can we test Minnesota values in a single year?

  • Karen

    When I voted to raise my taxes for the Legacy Amendment, it was for arts and the environment, NOT sports. Professional teams were not mentioned anywhere. Taking that money for the Vikings stadium is bait and switch, pure and simple. The voters will not stand for it.

  • Chip

    The suggestion to use Legacy Funds in thi manner just makes my stomach turn. I would hate to see the Vikings go, but the Legacy Fund provides funding for many, many important programs that enhance life in Minnesota in many more ways than a sports team can.

    I suggest everyone write their State Representative and Gov. Dayton in opposition before this idea is even presented. It’s a bad idea!

  • Elizabeth

    “Legacy money is for the ARTS: literature, dance, music and more. And, to protect our wetlands and the nature that inspires literature, dance, music and more… Football? Kurt Daudt’s inability to discern the vast and obvious chasm between art and violent contact sport is yet another indication of just how out of touch with their constituents – and reality – the republicans have become”

    So legacy money is fine as long as it supports things that YOU enjoy? Sorry, this isn’t YOUR world. Millions of people watch the Vikings every Sunday. Could you sound more like an elitist, hipster snob?

    It is possible to support both, you know?

    Legacy money is fine as long as it supports what it was intended to support. It does not matter whether you, a sports fan, or the ‘elitist, hipster snob’ enjoys the things that the money supports. What matters is that voters voted for that tax increase with a specific purpose. Money for a professional sports team’s new stadium was not and is not part of that purpose.

    Why is this even a question in the first place? It’s not as if the Vikings are an amazing team. They have yet to legitmately play an entire game this season and rewarding them with a new stadium for a job this poorly done is not going to enspire them to not suck. Leave legacy money to those things that are beautiful and successful in this state and invoke higher taxes on stadium tickets. That way the people who are attending events in the stadium are also those funding the new one.

  • Krissy

    The amount of money cycling in and out of football via salaries, merchandise, ticket sales, etc, is obscene. I realize that millions of people enjoy it, however, it needs to be considered that millions of people are also putting their money into what they enjoy, and that perhaps profits could be better allocated? The thought someone even considering putting even MORE money towards football, specifically money that was expressly designated for the arts, is unfathomable. If you’re curious about the exact designation of Legacy’s arts and cultural heritage fund, here is an excerpt from the official website:

    Proceeds from the arts and cultural heritage fund “may be spent only on arts, arts education and arts access and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.”

    Can someone tell me where you get football from that?

    Absolutely. NOT.

  • Ann

    The Legacy Amendment was voted on – overwhelmingly – by the People of Minnesota to support our Cultural Heritage and the Environment in a not-for-profit paradigm and to support State and Local governments in their cultural/environmental efforts. For Minnesota’s Republicans to even consider siphoning this money to the for-profit Vikings and their owner is NOT what we as tax-payers voted for. Considering this is a betrayal of Minnesota’s citizens and our State’s Republicans should be ashamed – and taken to task for their short-sightedness.