Can Minnesota afford another stadium?

By Ron Edwards

Tuesday’s April 5, 2011 edition of the Star Tribune reported an unveiling of the legislation for a new Minnesota Vikings Stadium (“Vikings stadium bill skirts vote on sales tax”) that will allow a local government to increase sales taxes for the project without taking it to the voters first. This is the same controversial strategy used in 2006 for the Twins’ Target Field.

In 2006, 2008 was still two years away (global recession, near collapse of Wall Street and the mortgage markets, 38 percent losses in 401(k)s/mutual funds/stocks). To this we now add the projected Minnesota budget deficiency of over $5 billion. Those who suggested a coming financial crisis in 2006 were dismissed as Cassandras by those who called it “riskless.”

In 2006, the citizens of Hennepin County were not happy about not having a voice. Since 2006, the voters’ trust in their government leaders has been shaken, as seen in the election results of 2010 and the re-emergence of the Republicans as a significant political force in Minnesota, taking control of both the House and the Senate. In fact, it was like musical chairs with Republicans now controlling the legislature and the Democrats now in the governor’s office.

For going on seven years at least, it’s been “Will they or won’t they?” regarding the legislature and stadium funding legislation. There are significant questions to deal with:

(1) the $5 billion state deficit;
(2) high unemployment;
(3) brutal cuts made to the proposed state budget, including cutting $32 million out of transportation;
(4) the NFL and Vikings stating 1995-1997 that without a new stadium the Vikings would have to move;
(5) the view voiced by Tony Dungy in the Star Tribune last week that without new stadiums, teams have to move;
(6) the 1997 statement of Henry Savakoul, then chair of the Sports Facility Commission, that the Twin Cities can only support three professional teams; and
(7) the roll call of those who say that the odd team out that has to leave is the Vikings.
The previous DFL legislature did not pass a Vikings stadium funding bill. The new Republican-controlled Minnesota legislature is now considering a stadium funding bill. Some legislators in the Star Tribune story discussed a new stadium in terms of a gravy train for the Vikings.
An editorial in that April 5 paper (“Legislature should back pre-K ratings”) reported on those in the legislature opposed to the recommendations of the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation, seeking instead to reduce the opportunity for educational enhancement for Minnesota’s children and specifically low-income families.
The legislature has already proposed eliminating aid for the three largest cities (Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth).

This leads me to ask the following questions: Can Minnesota, in the face of the $5 billion state deficit, afford to raise taxes for a new Vikings stadium? Should the decision be taken out of the hands of voters by skirting the law that requires voter approval and concurrence of communities being discussed as a site for any tax increases? Both Republican and DFL legislators are split amongst themselves over these questions.

How cautious will Minnesota’s elected and appointed public officials and sports barons be in their dismissal and disregard of the passions of the citizens of the state’s counties and municipalities in regard to imposing additional debt on them and on the futures of their children?

There has been a lot of talk in America among the DFL, Tea Party, and Republicans regarding providing a better tomorrow for the children of our nation. The legislature must allow Minnesota’s taxpaying parents and citizens have a say, aye or nay, on the future of Minnesota.  How important is the goal of having a reasonably debt-free state for our children by the time they reach maturity?

Is the building of a Vikings stadium and the passing of a football more important than the quality of the future opportunities we prefer for our children? Do we provide a level playing field for them in our schools and community, or force benefits considered to be part of what is needed for a stadium show?

These are difficult times in America in general and for in Minnesota in particular. Citizens require and demand clear and honest thinking. They ask for a concise and honest debate, as more than a stadium is at stake. Hanging in the balance is the future of the state of Minnesota and those who will ultimately be asked to govern the future of this great state.
Stay tuned.

Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at Hear his readings and read his archive of columns, solution papers and “web log” at www.The