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Stadium bill running short on time

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

ST. PAUL - Approving a new Vikings stadium by the Legislature's Monday deadline is becoming harder as time grows short, the House stadium bill author said today.

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"It's beginning to look more and more likely that we can't be done Monday," Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said.

Even if the House and Senate could pass the stadium proposal today, which will not happen, Lanning said it would be difficult to wrap up work by Monday, the deadline legislative leaders have set to adjourn for the year.

Once both chambers pass their own bills, legislative workers must go through them and see where they differ. Then the process would begin, probably in a House-Senate conference committee, to work out those differences.

Some lawmakers have said they are concerned that rushing a stadium bill through could result in errors.

Even before the stadium plan reaches House and Senate votes, Lanning said that there is work to do.

Lanning suggested that legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton must agree on a public works financing bill and tax bill before the full House considers a stadium. How those two votes go could affect votes on his bill, he said.

While lawmakers met with Dayton's staff Friday, by late afternoon there were no deals on the other two issues.

Still, Lanning said he is "reasonably optimistic" he has enough votes for a stadium to pass the House.

The Senate Tax Committee took up the bill just before 4 p.m., with Chairwoman Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, calling the bill the largest single project the Minnesota Legislature ever has considered. And it could be the biggest public project in the country since the 2008 recession, she added.

Ortman's committee must back the bill before it can receive a full Senate vote.

Lanning said he did not expect the House to take up the bill tonight, but that remained possible. When the House does take it up, the debate could last 12 hours.

Politically, it could be difficult to debate the stadium Saturday because a large anti-tax rally is planned for the Capitol, and many of those attending oppose taxes that would be part of stadium payments.

Ortman had said finishing an overall tax bill should take priority over stadium discussion, pushing off an expected Thursday meeting on the issue.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the stadium bill this week but added a proposal allowing casinos at the state's two horse-racing tracks as a backup funding source for the project. It was a change bill author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said could kill the bill and hoped it would be removed.

Lawmakers unhappy with including gambling as a funding source for the stadium are calling for other plans, including taxes on concessions, memorabilia, tickets and more.

Plans for stadium funding authored by Rosen and Lanning propose paying for the state's $398 million portion of the construction costs by allowing for electronic pulltab and bingo devices. The Vikings and other private sources would contribute $427 million and Minneapolis would add $150 million for the stadium, which would be built on the current Metrodome site in Minneapolis.

Rosen said the estimated revenues from electronic gaming are very conservative and easily should cover the state's portion of funding.

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