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Stadium bill stalls, no Senate meeting today

ST. PAUL - A Vikings stadium construction proposal is stalled in the Minnesota Senate.

The Senate Tax Committee was expected to debate the bill today, but now does not plan to take it up. The bill needs to go through the committee before the full Senate can vote.

There was no immediate indication when the bill could come up.

Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said the Vikings stadium bill should go through her Tax Committee before heading to the floor. But she also is working on an overall tax bill, which is a Republican priority.

In the meantime, talk is surfacing in the House that if major bills such as the stadium are not done by the Republican leaders' self-imposed Monday deadline, the Legislature could take a break and return to finish the job.

Besides a stadium, the Legislature is considering a public works bill, financed by the state selling bonds. However, Democrats like Gov. Mark Dayton's suggestion to spend $775 million and Republicans prefer to keep it below $500 million.

Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, chairman of the House public works committee, said he has a plan that he thinks both parties can back.

The tax bill Ortman and others are working on is a GOP priority.

While Republicans want to phase out the statewide business property tax, Dayton has balked. So House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, now says that could be eliminated so other mostly minor tax changes could pass.

The issue least likely to be resolved by Monday is the stadium, which gained momentum after Commissioner Roger Goodell of the National Football League visited state leaders Friday.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill 9-5 Wednesday, but added a proposal allowing casinos at the state's two horse-racing tracks as a backup funding source. It was a change Senate bill author Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said could kill the bill.

A similar stadium bill awaits a House floor debate. Zellers said he would put the stadium bill before lawmakers as soon as backers say they have the votes. It is not expected to come up today.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are unhappy with gambling proposed as a funding source for the stadium and are calling for other methods.

"There are a number of things that are very troublesome about this proposal," Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said.

Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, said he will propose an amendment to the bill adding taxes on stadium users, such as on sports memorabilia, ticket and stadium sales, liquor and team income.

Benson and Hann said more discussion needs to happen before a stadium decision is reached.

"My goal is to start the conversation with this amendment," Benson said.

Bills by Rosen and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, propose paying for the state's $398 portion of the stadium construction costs by allowing for electronic pulltab and bingo devices. The Vikings and other private sources would pay $427 million and Minneapolis $150 million.

Rosen said the estimated revenues from electronic gaming are very conservative.