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Dayton willing to consider 'harebrained' plan for stadium

ST. PAUL - Gov. Mark Dayton is willing to consider what he called a "harebrained scheme" to build a Vikings stadium.

Late Wednesday morning, the Democratic governor blasted a vague Republican plan as a "fiasco" and said "I just find it offensive." He said the GOP proposal could kill any hope of building a new stadium this year and called it a "switcheroo" from a stadium proposal eight months in the making that passed several legislative committees.

A few hours later, saying he stood by everything he said earlier, Dayton added about the new plan: "It is absolutely worth pursuing... Whether there is any viability, I can't say."

Approving a new stadium is one of Dayton's top priorities.

Wednesday's developments left more questions than answers as the Minnesota Legislature counted down to five days remaining to pass bills this year, although those days can be used any time before May 21.

Sketchy details of the plan released Wednesday night showed the state would pay $250 million, plus an undetermined amount more for a fixed roof. Minneapolis would pay $150 million, but the Vikings contribution had not been decided.

The plan calls for a fixed roof, although the Vikings could fund a retractable roof.

It was not clear when the new plan could be ready for consideration by the House and Senate, if ever.

If this plan does not work, House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said that other plans have been discussed.

Another plan is pushed by Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, to fund a stadium by user fees, such as on sports items sold at the stadium.

On Wednesday night, Howe produced preliminary figures showing a fee of less than 10 percent for four years and 11.25 percent after that would provide enough money to repay stadium construction costs.

"We know there is broad support for a user-fee based funding mechanism," Howe said.

Dean emerged from an hour-long meeting with Dayton and other legislative leaders saying Republicans want the Democratic governor's backing.

"We also need to talk to the Vikings to see if there is an appetite," Dean added.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley has said the team opposes the plan. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, in whose city the stadium would be built, also rejected it.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said that Republicans who control the Legislature should bring up bills already awaiting Senate and House votes.

The new proposal would require much vetting since no legislative committee has considered it, Bakk said.

"It is very clear there are no details to this proposal," Thissen said.

Even with their opposition, Dayton, Bakk and Thissen said they want to get more information about the GOP proposal.

Dean said Minnesota Management and Budget says a roof is required so the publicly owned facility can be used for more than 10 Vikings football games.

The existing plan also would require a roof that would allow the stadium to be used yearround from events ranging from concerts to monster truck rallies.

"There is a long ways to go with this and not much time," Dayton said following the meeting with Dean and other legislative leaders.

Many Republicans like the idea of reducing how much the state pays for a stadium, which GOP leaders said inspired the new stadium plan.

For months, in some cases years, many lawmakers and Dayton have said they could not accept a plan that uses general tax money to fund a stadium. The Dean plan relies on that money.

"We agreed from the very beginning that there would not be taxpayer dollars," Dayton said.

The plan already awaiting votes funds the state's $398 million portion of a $975 million stadium by expanding charitable gambling so more taxes are paid to the state.

Many lawmakers, especially Republicans, oppose expanded gambling. Others question whether there would be enough money to repay stadium construction costs.

Dayton complained that Republicans first talked about the plan in public Tuesday, ignoring eight months of negotiations on bills that already await House and Senate votes. Stadium bill authors Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, did not know about the new GOP plan until Tuesday.

Dean said the concept is that the state only would fund infrastructure, which he described as "from the turf down."

"Nobody even knows what 'from the turf down' means," Dayton retorted.

Bakk said he has received more than 2,000 emails about the stadium in recent days, nearly all urging the Legislature to vote on the negotiated plan.

Republican leaders propose putting the stadium in with an overall public works bill that would fix state building roofs, build roads and do other projects around the state, including beginning state Capitol renovation.

Dean said it has not been decided how much the bill would cost.

Dayton said that building a stadium may not happen. He said he does "not see how it can be salvaged" given the new Republican plan.