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Legislative leaders say Vikings stadium bill needs more work

ST. PAUL - A proposal to build a new Vikings stadium is not ready for prime time, the Minnesota House speaker says.

In a Friday meeting with reporters, House and Senate leaders repeatedly refused to back a proposal, or reject it, to build a professional football stadium funded in part by new sports-related taxes.

Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said he told bill sponsor Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, that the effort needs a local government partner and a stadium location before it is ready for serious consideration.

Lanning and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, say they plan to introduce a stadium bill next week that would raise sports-related taxes for about a third of the construction cost, allow local governments hosting a stadium to raise another third via a sales or other tax and require Vikings owners to pay the final third.

The bill also would require the stadium to have a roof.

No general state tax money would go to the stadium.

A stadium push is important, Rosen and Lanning said in a letter to other lawmakers, because the Vikings' Metrodome lease expires after next season.

Zellers said the bill should not be considered until some blanks are filled in, especially where a stadium would be built and what local governments would host it.

Discussion for a location has centered on downtown Minneapolis and an area northeast of that city at an old ammunition factory.

"We don't have a bill yet, we don't have a site, we don't have a local partner," Zellers said in declining to comment on specifics.

Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said they will not take much time thinking about a stadium until the Legislature's main job is done: Passing a two-year budget.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley acknowledged that the stadium effort is not the top legislative priority.

"They are consistent that this session is about budget and about jobs," he said.

Bagley said that the proposal sounds like a good starting point. The team is concerned with provisions creating a tax on player salaries and on the state taking stadium naming rights revenue, but said the team is ready to negotiate.

"We think it provides a workable framework that will help negotiate a deal to resolve the stadium issue and secure the team for the next generation," he said.

In the meantime, a key stadium supporter last year said it is too late to get a bill passed with less than two months left in the legislative session.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said a stadium bill should have been introduced early this year.

"There is going to be no Vikings bill," Bakk declared.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who supports a new stadium but does not plan to offer a proposal, said that it is up to the Legislature to act.

"Building a 'people's stadium' will provide good jobs for several thousand Minnesotans," Dayton said. "This bill is a good start, and gets the stadium discussion started within the Legislature. It includes what I view as essential elements of a stadium bill, particularly that no general fund dollars be used to pay for it."

Among questions Lanning and Rosen face is whether conservative Republicans who vow not to raise taxes are willing to impose taxes on sport memorabilia, players' salaries and other sports items. Another question is whether Democrats who decry Republican budget cuts for health programs serving the poor can justify raising taxes for a stadium.