Legislative Republicans, including State Senator Julianne Ortman, rolled out their latest strategy to kill the new proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium today. What’s that, you say? A new funding proposal can’t possibly be a strategy to kill the bill? Not true at all. The flurry of proposals you’ve seen Republicans lately are actually designed to kill the stadium deal while giving a reasonable out for stadium opponents to say that they supported some kind of package for a new stadium. Because while many legislators don’t want to vote for a stadium, they also don’t want to get tagged with the blame if (when) the team leaves town.
What’s the primary piece of evidence supporting the hypothesis that today’s proposal is just political cover? None of the other critical parties in the stadium discussion — the team, Governor Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, or even the Republican sponsors of the current proposed stadium legislation — were involved in the crafting of the new proposal. The Vikings, Dayton, and Rybak all find the new proposal unacceptable, while legislative sponsors State Sen. Julie Rosen and State Rep. Morrie Lanning were lukewarm at best.
The press conference where the outlines of this new proposal were sketched out was not confidence-inspiring, either. At time, the legislators contradicted themselves, and to say the details of what could or could not be counted as “infrastructure” as part of the deal were fuzzy would be an understatement. Team officials have been working for a decade to get a new stadium, and it’s only now — one day after legislative leaders State Sen. David Senjem and State Rep. Kurt Zellers said the session would be adjourned — that the “silver bullet” legislation comes out of the woodwork?
Zellers, in particular, continues to be a profile in political timidity on the stadium issue. After saying that he would let the legislative process play out and demanding that DFLers deliver one-half of the required votes — 34 votes — in the House, he’s gone back on his word. The bill moved through House committees as Zellers demanded, and Minority Leader State Rep. Paul Thissen indicated he had the required 34 votes in his caucus for the bill, meaning that Zellers only needed to provide 34 of his party’s 72 members to get the bill passed. Yet, he won’t move the bill to the floor.
Today’s proposal just continues the string of such dog-and-pony acts perpetuated during the committee process, from the insertion of the racino proposal at one point in the Senate Finance Committee, to attempt to change the funding mechanism to user taxes or mandating a referendum in the city of Minneapolis.
It’s time to put an end to the cover-yer-butt politics pervading the Capitol today. There’s a stadium bill that has made it through committee. It has earned a floor vote, and it’s time for our legislators to put their vote where their mouth is. Vote Yes. Vote No. But just vote already.