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Updated: November 1st, 2011 2:51pm
Legislature won't back tax hike for Vikings stadium without referendum

Legislature won't back tax hike for Vikings stadium without referendum

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Vikings' stadium push appeared to suffer a blow on Tuesday, when Gov. Mark Dayton issued a statement saying he and legislative leaders agree they don't have the votes to pass new taxes without a referendum.

However, team officials and bill supporters said the announcement wasn't a setback, with Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley telling reporters pull tabs, bonding, a memorabilia tax, a lottery game and other financing mechanisms remain on the table.

The Vikings preferred proposal for a stadium in Ramsey County and a counterplan proposed last week by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak both leaned on local sales tax hikes. A referendum, which in all likelihood would fail, wouldn't even happen until November 2012 -- nine months after the Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires.

The Vikings had sought an exemption from the referendum requirement, arguing they should be treated the same as the Minnesota Twins, who didn't need a referendum to approve funding for Target Field in 2006.

"Last Friday's meeting was very significant in eliminating one proposed source of financing for a People's Stadium in either Ramsey County or Minneapolis, unless the Vikings are willing to endure the time delay and continuing uncertainty in obtaining voters' approval," Dayton said in the statement, which also included the names of GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers, GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk.

Ramsey County had proposed a half-cent sales tax increase to fund its $350 million contribution toward a more than $1 billion stadium project in Arden Hills. Rybak had suggested a 0.35% sales tax increase to build a stadium on one of three sites in Minneapolis.

In light of the referendum issue, "we are now actively assessing and discussing with the team other financing options," Dayton's statement said.

An expansion of gambling, perhaps including a new downtown casino, is one of the options under discussion.

Dayton is scheduled to unveil his own stadium proposal on Monday and said last month he hoped to call a special session the week of Nov. 21.

However, there are growing indications that special session might not happen until December or January if Dayton chooses a site-neutral proposal or one of Rybak's proposed sites in Minneapolis.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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