Monday, April 30, 2012

Vikings Stadium Becomes Political Pawn

Just one week ago, the Minnesota Vikings' push for a new Minneapolis stadium seemed like a legislative priority. It seemed important.

Granted, this all happened after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell visited the Capitol and delivered what one prominent Minnesota politician called a "reality check," but it happened. For a few days after Goodell's visit -- he said there was no threat, but it's clear there was at least an implied threat of franchise relocation, which is not at all desirable in NFL circles because of how valuable they feel the franchise is in its current city -- it seemed politicians cared about this issue for the first time in a long time.

You see, Minnesota's NFL franchise has been trying for over a decade to get a new stadium to replace the antiquated, crappy, and awfully antiquated (did I mention that it's crappy?) Metrodome. Since the funding for Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium was finalized in 2006, ownership has been trying (but ultimately waiting patiently) to get something done.

Until Goodell visited, there was no urgency.

Ten days after Goodell stopped by, the urgency has again departed. Instead, Minnesota's "leadership" has turned the stadium -- and, by extension, the franchise's future in Minnesota -- into just another political pawn.

A chief author of the Minnesota Vikings stadium plan said Sunday it was "very questionable" that the project would win approval unless Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders first reach agreement on other issues.

"Without a global agreement, without an agreement on a bonding bill and a tax bill," said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, "it's very questionable whether there will be a vote on the stadium."

... Lanning seemed to dangle the promise of the stadium passing the Republican-controlled House -- he said there were enough votes -- but said it all depended on Dayton's willingness to agree to business tax relief and a smaller state bond package.

... The governor said Saturday that the Republicans' "view of compromise is doing things their way" and "that's just not going to work this time."

... Republicans want the elimination of the statewide business property tax, a move the governor has resisted because it could require dipping into the state's emergency budget reserves. A House-Senate conference panel nonetheless agreed late Saturday on a series of business-friendly tax provisions, including a freeze on business property taxes.

Dayton and DFLers meanwhile want a larger state bonding bill, spending that many Republicans oppose.

The Vikings stadium, which has its own set of political problems, for now seems to be caught in the middle.

No one is saying that the stadium is more important than the other issues on the table. I understand that a bonding bill is a big deal, and it has to get done before the session ends.

But this is the same group that somehow took time last week to declare a state soil. Yeah, Minnesota has a state dirt. Great.

Priorities aren't exactly a high point of politicians. They are worried about their re-elections ahead of anything else, and if they think they can put a hot-button issue off during an election year, they're going to do it almost every time.

Of course, if a stadium deal doesn't get done before the end of this session, it might be time to bury the Vikings franchise in some of that state dirt.

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