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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published April 10 2013

Hunt is on for new source for Vikings stadium funding

ST. PAUL – The treasure hunt is on: seeking money for Vikings stadium construction costs after the original plan produced less money than expected.

The Minnesota House Taxes Committee discussed a bill, but took no votes Wednesday, that would slap a 10 percent tax on professional sports memorabilia sold in the state.

That is the first idea to receive committee consideration since it became known that revenue from electronic pulltabs, which was supposed to fund the state’s portion of the nearly $1 billion stadium, were a fraction of what was planned. Many lawmakers are making suggestions about what can be done.

Alternatives under discussion include forcing Vikings owners to up their contribution, authorizing slot machines, taxing sports spectator suites and delaying work on the project until stable funding is available.

“There are no easy solutions,” Rep. Anne Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said in telling the Taxes Committee about her sports memorabilia tax plan.

Lawmakers are split about whether action is needed before legislators adjourn for the year by May 20 or if the original electronic pulltab revenue source still will work.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said it would be hard for Minnesota to borrow money with the stadium uproar continuing, but stadium bill author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said no action is needed now.

“It is not the time to hit the panic button,” she said.

A year ago, Dayton signed into law a bill Rosen and then-Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, authored to fund a $975 million stadium at the current Minneapolis Metrodome site.

The state’s $348 million contribution was to come from charitable gaming taxes on newly approved electronic pulltab and bingo games. Minneapolis is to pay $150 million for construction, with the Vikings and other private sources adding the remaining $477 million.

Groundbreaking is planned for October, with the stadium opening in July 2016.

The funding problem arose when only a fraction of the charities and bars using paper pulltabs opted to go to the electronic version. Only 10 percent of the estimated funds have come in, leaving many legislators concerned about the state’s ability to repay bonds that will be sold in August or September to fund the state portion of the project.