The Legislature, stalled on a variety of fronts down the session's
homestretch, is asking the Twins to quit hedging on the ballpark bill and toss
out a figure of how much the team is willing to put upfront to get state support
for a new stadium.
The conference committee looking to reach a compromise on the ballpark bill
meets again late Monday afternoon to try and reach a tri-partisan consensus on a
ballpark funding bill.
It is only one of a handful of such committees trying to hammer out
agreements to get the session done, which some think now may linger into May.
The House and Senate conferees appear to be circling around the House plan
adapted from a proposal from Gov. Jesse Ventura's staff.
That plan calls for using interest earnings from an upfront $165 million
trust fund financed by the team -- along with an annual influx of money from the
team and city where the $330 million ballpark is built -- to make annual
payments on state-sold revenue bonds along with paying the principle to retire
the 30-year bonds.
When Ventura tossed out the plan, House members quickly latched onto it,
eventually passing a bill, a substantial step for stadium supporters who for
years have found their efforts stalled annually, mainly by a reluctant House.
That passage spurred hope for a resolution of the long-simmering issue, but
as conferees began meeting with momentum on their side, the Twins began hedging
on the plan, questioning the amount of up-front money and noting that current
owner Carl Pohlad is looking to sell the team.
The lawyer brokering the sale for Pohlad told legislators that Pohlad wasn't
going to put his own money into the trust, instead expecting the new owner to
write that check.
The team hinted that it hoped lawmakers would expect less money up front, and
more in annual payments.
But that has spurred trepidation among some lawmakers who say they need tight
financial guarantees in order to pass any bill, and without a firm financial
commitment from the Twins that hasn't been forthcoming.
House Speaker Steve Sviggum said the final package must closely resemble the
House bill or it will lose too many votes and fail when it comes back to the
House for a vote.