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Task force tentatively backs user fees or surcharges for a stadium
by Robert Whereatt

MANKATO, MINN. -- A stadium task force agreed in principle Thursday on a raft of user fees and surcharges to help pay the public portion of any new stadium, implicitly concluding that one or two should be built.

"We haven't said that [two stadiums should be built] yet, but it's moving in that direction," said Sen. Roy Terwilliger, R-Edina, a member of the 18-member legislative stadium task force. "It's there, but we haven't said it yet."

Will Haddeland, a cochairman of the panel, said the notion that "if you can find the financing, there should be two" was unspoken but implicit at the task force's meeting Thursday.

But no one there, at Minnesota State University Mankato, was prepared to say that the fees, taxes, surcharges and other identified revenue sources would support the public portion of a $300million Twins ballpark and a $500million football stadium and parking complex to be shared by the Vikings and the University of Minnesota Gophers.

Stadium proposals put forth in the past year have included a significant private contribution.

Such a contribution would be part of any task force recommendation, as well.

The task force is expected to make final recommendations to the Legislature by about Jan. 29, the opening bell for the 2002 session. In choosing potential revenue sources, panel members said they were trying to devise a plan in which a stadium would be financed only by those who would use it or benefit from it. They also had an eye on how legislators, for years skittish about voting for a stadium, might react to their recommendations.

"You can label anything you want 'user fees,' but unless they're truly user fees, you're not going get [House] support," said Rep. Kevin Goodno, R-Moorhead, a task force cochairman.

The task force's report is scheduled to be adopted at the next meeting, on Tuesday in St. Paul. Members agreed Thursday that appropriate revenue sources would include:

-An extra sales tax added to the 6 1/2 percent on all professional-sports memorabilia, applied statewide.

-An additional 6 1/2 percent sales tax on food sold at any new stadium.

-Redirection of the 9 percent tax on stadium beer sales to stadium financing. It now goes into the state's general fund.

-Redirection of the income tax paid by visiting players to stadium financing. It now goes into the state's general fund.

-Addition of a surcharge on the income tax paid by home team players and stadium employees.

Task force member Dean Barkley, state planning director, said any revenue source that diverts money from the state's general fund "will be a tough sell for the governor" even if it is a true user fee.

The task force, on a close nonbinding vote, turned thumbs-down on the concept of using profits from, non-Indian casinos for stadium financing. That matter, though, is expected to be revisited at the next meeting.

A number of task forces have considered stadium-funding options, but none has passed muster with the Legislature.

This one might, said Sen. Cal Larson, R-Fergus Falls, simply because it has the involvement of the House, the Senate and, most important, , Ventura. ( He appointed several members of the task force.) "Ventura gives it substance," he said.