$148 million short and 5 TBDs too many

Legislative Republicans released the framework of their proposal to use general obligation bonds to fund the state’s share of a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

What’s notable about the proposal is how much is still left to be worked out at this point.  The full document released (sketchy as it is) is at the bottom of the post.

The proposal would cap the state’s contribution to the new stadium at $250 million.  This is meant to represent various infrastructure costs related to construction of a “roof-ready” stadium.  The city of Minneapolis would still kick in $150 million, using the same means as the previous stadium bill — utilizing existing city sales taxes that support the Convention Center.   The team, meanwhile, has reiterated that its contribution is capped at $427 million, the amount in the previous stadium bill.

That leaves a $148 million hole in the financing for the stadium that has to be filled — the cost of the roof.  That’s “has to be”, as in not optional, as the GOP was claiming yesterday.  Legal consensus is that a stadium without a roof would not be eligible for general obligation bonds.  Where’s the plan for that?  Well, it’s “TBD” — a phrase that appears five times in the single-page proposal.

Is there a path forward here to fill that gap?  Is the team going to kick in that much?  Not likely.  You may be able to squeeze a few more million out of the team and make them responsible for cost overruns, but they certainly aren’t going to be putting in the full amount.  Given the struggle of getting $150 million past the Minneapolis City Council, doubling that amount is a non-starter.  Bringing in Hennepin County as a second local partner isn’t likely, either.  So the most likely and most reasonable option would be to bond the full $398 million state contribution from the previous bill.

But upping the stadium contribution likely means you’re looking at a total bonding bill in excess of $800 million.  (Remember that bonding bills have to pass the legislature by a 60% supermajority.)  DFL votes will be required and they’re not going to sign on to a package that scrimps on needed local projects.  Is an $800 million-plus bonding bill more acceptable to Republican majorities than the previous stadium bill?  Given that many Republicans were perfectly fine with having no bonding bill at all this year, I would say that’s a dubious proposition.

Some of the harsh rhetoric may have faded, but until there’s a real plan to fill that gap and get rid of those TBDs, my post from yesterday still stands:  this proposal isn’t terribly serious and is doing more to kill chances of a stadium than advance it.


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