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MN House leader balks at emergency stadium vote

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The top Minnesota House Republican wants to put legislative action on the financing for a new Vikings stadium on hold until next year, balking at the governor's suggestion that the issue be settled soon in an emergency session.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers said in an email sent Tuesday evening to his 71 GOP colleagues that a vote on a stadium financing plan can wait until the 2012 session, which begins in late January.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton wants quicker action to prevent other cities from luring the football team away once its Metrodome lease expires following the season. The Vikings have four home games remaining.

"I have repeatedly told Governor (Mark) Dayton that I will not support a special session for a Vikings stadium," Zellers said.

Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch didn't immediately return messages Wednesday on her special session stance.

Dayton doesn't need the Legislature's consent to call a special session, but lawmakers determine how long it lasts once they're back in St. Paul. Governors typically avoid calling a session without mutual agreement on an agenda.

The Vikings have no plans to sign a lease extension, but the team's owners haven't publicly threatened to move the team either.

"Our lease is still in front of us, there's time to pull this together," Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said Tuesday. "We're confident our leadership will help find the right solution."

A financing plan hasn't been finalized.

One possible option fell away when Dayton and lawmakers effectively ruled out new local sales taxes to pay for a share of the expected stadium cost of $1 billion or more. They said a sales tax lacks the votes to pass the Legislature unless a public referendum is required; the earliest a referendum could be held is November 2012 and the Vikings oppose one.

Discussions in recent days have focused on expanded gambling. There are several possibilities: authorizing a new casino in downtown Minneapolis; adding of video slot machines at two horse-racing tracks near the Twin Cities; allowing bars and restaurants to shift from offering paper pull-tabs to electronic ones; and selling themed scratch-off lottery tickets.

The pull-tab plan, which also envisions a bingo component, appears to have the most traction. Legislative researchers estimate it would raise up to $42 million a year.

"I think the electronic pull-tabs probably has the most promise at this point in terms of drawing enough support in the Legislature," Dayton said. "My sense is that's probably the most immediately available and plausible source right now."

Another possible approach would be to divert money from the state's "Legacy" sales tax, which was approved by voters in 2008 to dedicate money to arts and cultural programs, outdoor preservation and clean water initiatives. Dayton said that would not be his preferred approach but that he is not ready to rule it out either.

The Vikings have sought a replacement for the Metrodome for years, saying the Minneapolis venue is no longer sufficiently profitable. The team prefers building a new facility in the St. Paul suburb of Arden Hills but Minneapolis leaders are promoting three sites of their own.


Associated Press writer Patrick Condon contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
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