Area House members supported stadium bill
The Minnesota Vikings stadium bill received support from three area House lawmakers Monday night as the attention of football fans turned to Tuesday’s expected vote in the Senate.
Voting “yes” on the stadium bill Monday night were Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd; Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker; and Rep. Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls. All three also voted in favor of the bonding bill on Monday.
Ward voted for the stadium bill because it did not use current general fund dollars or Legacy Amendment dollars and because of the estimated 8,000 jobs it would create during construction and 3,400 jobs after the stadium is running.
Ward was disappointed at the Vikings reaction that the House bill would not work after nine hours of debate and a final vote late Monday.
“It’s disappointing to me from the standpoint, we passed a bill that could get support here,” Ward said. “It’s all about people compromising and coming together.
“The Vikings need to be open-minded and be willing to negotiate as well ... if they want to get this done,” Ward said. “I hope it’s a reactionary statement.”
Ward said it’s difficult to craft a bill that everyone will like, but he hoped the House bill would be a solution to a “10-year problem.”
Howes said the stadium bill was a good package that would help charitable gaming as well as force the Vikings to pay a greater contribution. He said he looked at the money the state would lose if the Vikings were to leave the state.
Howes said he received 800 emails with only five urging a “no” vote on the stadium. Since his vote, he received one critical email and one critical voice message.
LeMieur said he took very seriously the possibility that the Vikings would be sold and then moved if there were no stadium package. If that happened, he said, the state would lose millions in income taxes that the state collects from athletes.
The legislator, who will not run for re-election in 2012, said he might have to reconsider his support if the Vikings’ contribution of an extra $105 million is not included in the final version of the bill because of the sports team’s objections.
“If that’s their deal-breaker, then I think it should be on the Vikings then,” LeMieur said.
The $496 million bonding bill was supported by all three area House members. Howes, chair of the Capital Investment Committee, said the borrowing bill met needs of MnSCU, the University of Minnesota as well as roads and bridges.
“Patience is of the utmost,” he said of the long process that led to the bill’s passage in the House and Senate. “And the second thing is patience and patience is the third thing.”
He said late Tuesday afternoon that the Senate’s version of the bonding bill was very similar to that of the House and lawmakers decided to send it straight to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature rather than to a conference committee. Howes said there have been no signs that Dayton would veto the bill.
Included in the bonding bill, he said, was about $2 million to 3 million for Lakeland Public Television to assist them in constructing a new broadcast building and $19.5 million for an education center at Camp Ripley that would include class rooms and dormitories.
Ward noted the inclusion of $50 million for a Business Development Grant Program administered through the Department of Employment and Economic Development and the Camp Ripley education center.
LeMieur described the bonding bill as mainly bricks-and-mortar projects and was pleased with the support for the Camp Ripley education center. Overall, he said the bill was a little bigger than some Republicans had wanted. Also, he said that the GOP proposal had fully funded plans for Capitol restoration, while the final bill reduced the amount for that project.