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Danielle Nordine, State Capitol Bureau, Published April 26 2012

Minnesota Legislature: Tax talks trump stadium hearing

ST. PAUL – Work on changing Minnesota tax laws took precedence Thursday over considering a new Vikings stadium.

“We can only do so much at one time,” said Senate Tax Chairwoman Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen.

She said her tax committee will not take up the stadium proposal before progress is made on a tax bill, including provisions such as providing tax breaks for business investors.

Ortman’s Tax Committee had planned to debate the bill but did not meet Thursday.

The bill needs to go through the committee before the full Senate can vote on it. It is unclear when the plan could come up for discussion.

Bill author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said the stadium likely will be one of the last bills debated this year, but the self-imposed Monday deadline for the session to wrap up is quickly approaching.

Gov. Mark Dayton and others have warned the Vikings could leave Minnesota if lawmakers do not pass a stadium plan.

The issue had been gaining speed since a Friday visit by National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, but started faltering midweek.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the stadium bill 9-5 Wednesday but added a proposal allowing casinos at the state’s two horse-racing tracks as a backup funding source. It was a change Rosen said could kill the bill and hoped it could come out of the plan during further negotiations.

The House bill awaits a floor debate. House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said he would put the stadium bill before lawmakers as soon as backers say they have the votes.

Meanwhile, lawmakers unhappy with gambling proposed as a funding source for the stadium are calling for other plans.

“There are a number of things that are very troublesome about this proposal,” Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said of the current bill.

Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, said he will propose a plan adding taxes on stadium users, such as on sports memorabilia, ticket and stadium sales, liquor and team income.

Rep. Diane Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, introduced a proposal that would rely on other sources including more funds from the team, businesses purchasing naming rights and advertising and fees on concessions, tickets and memorabilia.

Benson and Hann said more discussion needs to happen before a stadium decision is reached.

Bills by Rosen and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, propose paying for the state’s $398 million portion of the stadium construction costs by allowing for electronic pull-tab and bingo devices. The Vikings and other private sources would pay $427 million and Minneapolis $150 million for the stadium on the current Metrodome site in Minneapolis.

Don Davis contributed to this story. Danielle Nordine and Davis report for Forum Communications Co.

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