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Stadium bill changing; interest-free loan out, ticket tax in
by Robert Whereatt

p>In an attempt to overcome specific objections of Gov. Jesse Ventura and some legislators, a new financing plan for a $300 million Twins stadium will be proposed today in the House Taxes Committee.

Instead of an interest-free loan, the amendment calls for the state to issue $140 million in revenue bonds that would be repaid, with interest, from the lease with the Twins and a 10 percent tax on tickets.

Gone, too, are provisions that would have made the stadium a sales-tax-free zone. Ventura had objected to the tax-free zone and the interest-free loan provisions in the existing bill.

"I'm trying to craft a bill that [Rep.] Phil Krinkie could vote for," said Rep. Dan McElroy, referring to the Shoreview Republican who has steadfastly opposed any state involvement in a new stadium.

McElroy, R-Burnsville, a member of the Taxes Committee, will offer the amendment overhauling the stadium financing. He said he and Rep. Harry Mares, R-White Bear Lake, the chief sponsor of the stadium bill, drafted the changes.

McElroy, who on Wednesday was considering proposing a nonbinding referendum, said Thursday that if the amendment were adopted, there would be no need to go to voters since state tax money wouldn't be lent. Instead, the state would sell bonds in the marketplace to raise the money and the Twins would be responsible for repayment, McElroy said.

Under the new proposal, the Twins and other private interests still would have to provide $150 million. The state would exempt stadium construction materials from the sales tax, a subsidy estimated at $10 million.

Similar to the earlier bill, proceeds from the bond sale couldn't be used until Major League Baseball made certain internal economic changes, "including enhanced revenue sharing that makes baseball more competitive ... and enhances the viability of any new baseball park." That determination would be made by a panel of three retired judges, the governor and senior members of the Legislature. The earlier version included only the three retired judges.

On Thursday afternoon, Twins President Jerry Bell and Jim Pohlad, son of Twins owner Carl Pohlad, met with Rep. Ron Abrams, R-Minnetonka, the chairman of the Taxes Committee.

Neither Bell nor Pohlad had any comment on the new proposal after meeting with Abrams.

Said Abrams: "They did not voice support or opposition [to the proposed changes]."

Though the changes may meet some of Ventura's objections, the governor said on KFAN Radio (AM 1130) Thursday afternoon that "I would prefer to deal with [the stadium issue] next year."

Ventura said that by next year it will be known if a new contract between Major League Baseball and the players will have changes that would protect smaller-market teams like the Twins. The current Major League contract expires after this season.

Abrams, who like the governor expressed concern about the original tax-free zone, declined to comment on the proposed changes. He did say that interest on state revenue bonds is in the range of 5 to 6 percent.