ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Key legislators dealt a devastating blow to prospects for a new
Minnesota Twins stadium Tuesday by failing to endorse any funding proposals for a
ballpark. The 18-member Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy, a bipartisan
panel of House and Senate leaders, rejected a half dozen proposals during a 5½-hour
meeting. None of the ideas managed more than six votes.
The message seems to be that no method of public funding is acceptable to legislators
who are just days away from a special session.
"I think Minnesotans are sick and tired of what's going on with professional
sports," said Sen. Doug Johnson, DFL-Tower. "I think Minnesota should be the
first state that says 'no,' we've had enough."
Twins owner Carl Pohlad has said he can't make a profit in the Metrodome and needs a
new publicly subsidized ballpark to survive in the Twin Cities. He has a deal to sell the
team to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver if the Legislature doesn't approve stadium
funding by Nov. 30.
Johnson called Pohlad's tactics "blackmail."
The most popular proposal Tuesday was to pay for a ballpark with a mixture of user
taxes; surcharges on tickets, player salaries, event parking and items sold in and around
the stadium. The plan also included a car rental tax, a special sports lottery and a tax
on licensed professional sports clothing and merchandise.
The tax on sports clothing appeared to doom that proposal, which failed on a 6-11 vote.
"Are we going down the road to having a sales tax on clothing?" asked House
Majority Leader Ted Winter, DFL-Fulda. "Is this the start of a slippery slope?"
The commission rejected 12-5 the idea of raising money from slot machines at Canterbury
Among the other defeated proposals were plans to use state lottery money and to sell
the Metrodome to the Twins and Vikings for one dollar.
The commission's actions might have repercussions for a proposal to get the state to
foot half the bill for a $130 million St. Paul hockey arena.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, who sponsored two of the defeated proposals, said
Sen. Richard Cohen and Rep. Steve Trimble, both St. Paul DFLers, didn't do anything for
hockey's cause when they voted against the baseball proposals.
"We had two legislators from St. Paul at the table who voted against a stadium ...
who are now going to ask my constituents to pay for an arena. I don't think I'm going to
buy into that one," said Moe, DFL-Erskine.
The commission's action Tuesday has procedural implications as well as the political
The special session will begin Thursday without a main bill for legislators to consider
and amend. The lack of a single vehicle might make for a parliamentary morass that could
make it difficult for lawmakers to complete their work in the week legislative leaders say
they're shooting for.