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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published December 10 2011

Minnesota Political Notebook: Conflicting information slows stadium agreement

ST. PAUL - Trying to agree on how to fund a new Vikings football stadium is hard enough, but legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton also must deal with trying to find the facts.

It’s not that anyone is lying, but everyone is trying to spin their side of the story.

Vikings officials keep hammering home the point that the $425 million they pledge for a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills would be the third-largest team contribution ever to a National Football League stadium.

On the other hand, the stadium team owner Zygi Wilf wants would be the third-most expensive, too. The average cost for new or extensively renovated stadiums since 1997 is $525 million.

Also, Wilf and his family actually would not put up all of the $425 million. The NFL may loan owners part of the money, and with other non-Wilf funds, the team’s contribution may be closer to $200 million.

Then there is the possibility of the stadium ending up in Minneapolis, not where Wilf wants it. If that happens, Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley often has said the team will contribute less, but he will not say how much less.

Speaking of Minneapolis, Mayor R.T. Rybak in recent weeks has pushed keeping the Vikings in his downtown and appeared to receive some legislative support. But in his first talk to the City Council about it on Thursday, he received what could be called less than overwhelming support for his Vikings plan, which would gut and rebuild the Metrodome for about

$200 million less than the Arden Hills facility.

And there is the possibility of the team moving if state leaders fail to approve a new stadium. NFL officials have said that is a possibility, and Bagley admitted for the first time on Tuesday that other communities are interested.

Senate Taxes Chairwoman Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, clearly ended several hours of hearings over two days with more questions than answers on these and other stadium questions.

Now, talks go back behind closed doors where a working group of legislators and Dayton aides will continue to try to find the answers and produce a plan by late this month or early January.

White Earth offer

A proposal by the White Earth Tribal Nation took people looking for Vikings stadium funding by surprise.

Chairwoman Erma Vizenor suggested allowing White Earth to build a casino near the proposed Arden Hills stadium and the tribe would provide enough money from gambling profits to fund stadium construction.

“I don’t understand enough about it,” Gov. Mark Dayton said when asked for a comment, adding that he appreciates the offer.

Other tribes will oppose the plan, but that may not matter much in a Republican-dominated Legislature that is not overly concerned about protecting current tribal casinos.

Vizenor’s idea is an offshoot of a plan she and Red Lake leaders proposed during the Gov. Tim Pawlenty administration to open a joint Twin Cities casino.

Biofuels vote sought

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., wants to extend tax credits for biofuels such as ethanol and other alternative sources.

“From biofuels to wind power to solar energy, alternative energy industries are creating good jobs and boosting local economies across Minnesota,” Klobuchar said. “Extending these critical tax credits will help strengthen our state’s clean energy businesses so they can continue to grow and thrive.”

Klobuchar and others wrote a letter to Senate leaders asking that the tax credits be prevented from expiring.

Small-business help

Small Minnesota businesses may get financial and technical help under a new program that focuses on helping firms to increase foreign sales.

More than $450,000 is available, the Department of Employment and Economic Development says.

The Minnesota Trade Office and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will use the money to prepare companies that are not now exporting their products to get into foreign markets.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com