MARSHALL - Seven months after Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Vikings stadium bill, concerns have been raised over a funding mechanism to help pay for the state's share of the $975 million facility.
With funding from electronic pull-tab revenue rolling in more at the pace of an offensive lineman than a wide receiver, Dayton and stadium critics have expressed concern over the plan to raise the nearly $350 million. State budget forecasters released a report last week that showed the reserve to support bonding payments for the state's share would be short by nearly half for fiscal year 2013.
And this is just one area Dayton has taken criticism over.
Opponents have also called out Dayton for signing a bill that included the right for the team to sell PSLs, or personal seat licenses, then contradicting the language in the bill by decrying the idea, saying he wants the stadium to be a "People's Stadium," not a "Rich People's Stadium." Dayton also teased recently that he wouldn't rule out going back to the Legislature to revisit the stadium bill sometime to address these issues during the 2013 session.
That's an idea that doesn't sit well with area legislators.
"It would get somewhat frustrating," said District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, who voted against the stadium bill. "That was one of the issues I had - I wasn't in favor of expanded gambling, not because I don't believe we didn't need a new stadium, I was just not in agreement with some of the ways it would be funded. I just didn't feel the dollars would be there."
"I hope we take care of the budget first; I think if we can do that - we can all walk and chew gum at the same time, and we're gonna have to have the issues that come before us," said District 16A Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent. "But I'm hoping we can hold off on it until 2014. The Vikings seemed to take up a lot of time (last session), but at the end of the day, it didn't take up that much time on a day-to-day basis - it appeared to with all the media attention, but mostly we were focused on other bills."
Dahms said the governor and Legislature should wait it out for at least two years to see if electronic gambling revenue eventually gains steam.
"If we get into that debate this session, I think that would be premature," he said. "I think there are other things we need to deal with this session. Let's give it a year or two and see how it plays out, and then we'll go from there."
Dahms wonders if everyone fully understood what was in the bill when it comes to PSLs, "so they're not crying 'surprise.' I expect to have these discussions at some point, but we should at least give it two or three sessions to see where we're at."
Swedzinski, who also voted against the final stadium bill, said he's fine with the Vikings selling PSLs, but, he asked, why not split the revenue PSLs bring in with the state?
"Let the state get part of the gains - that can be a revenue source," he said. "Dayton is taking a stand against it because he's saying people can't afford to go to the games, but whether the state has PSLs or the Vikings have PSLs, it's still a public building, so let the state get something out of it."
Swedzinski said one of the reasons he voted against the bill was because the state wouldn't get revenue from naming rights. That is going to the team. In that regard, while he's not thrilled about the prospects of opening up stadium debate again in 2013, he said maybe it's not a bad idea to revisit the bill to see if there's a chance the state can reap some of the financial benefits the Vikings have their eyes on.
"I think it's a bad product that came out, personally," he said. "We got the final bill at midnight on the last day we could vote on it and were told to make a decision. Maybe we should revisit it and see if we can share in those revenues. If gambling doesn't turn out like they thought it would, I think we could take another look at it and see what other revenues are out there like naming rights. It would be an interesting conversation."