View Single Post
Old 05-05-2005, 11:08 AM   #6
ESPN 8...The Ocho!
FSUViking's Avatar
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 880
FSUViking is on a distinguished road

Hennepin County approved it, 4-3. Interesting sidebar....the 4 votes yes? Men. The 3 no? Women.

Anyways, now it's across the river to St. Paul:

Ballpark passage predicted

But most Hennepin County legislators say they're opposed; local referendum still in play

Pioneer Press

A controversial bill for a Minnesota Twins outdoor ballpark will win approval at the state Capitol, DFL and Republican legislative leaders predicted Wednesday, but passage likely will come over the objection of most lawmakers living in the ballpark's shadows.

A Pioneer Press survey of legislators from Hennepin County indicates a majority, and possibly a large majority, will oppose the bill, particularly if a mandatory county referendum isn't part of the legislation.

Their protest focuses on a 0.15 percent county sales tax, or 3 cents on a $20 purchase, that would finance three-quarters of the $478 million project planned for the Warehouse District in downtown Minneapolis.

The rest of the money would come from the Twins, but none from the other 86 counties in the state a financing strategy that's making many in the Hennepin delegation balk.

"I'm putting in a bill to rename the Minnesota Twins, the Hennepin County Twins,'' said Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, who'll be a leader of the Hennepin revolt.

Lenczewski, the senior DFLer on the House Tax Committee, said no facetiousness is intended.

"Why in the world would we want to tax our own people for a stadium?'' she asked rhetorically, adding that many colleagues of both parties want the broadest tax possible.

That tax would be statewide, but legislative sessions in the past have shrunk from statewide funding, as they have from metrowide funding. St. Paul leaders stood up in 2002 to say their city would shoulder a local tax on its own. A bill did pass with that financing element, but the Twins contended the multifaceted legislation wouldn't raise enough money.

Although most Hennepin County legislators likely will oppose the bill, House Speaker Steve Sviggum and Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson predicted adoption of the measure.

"I will do whatever I can to obtain passage of the stadium bill,'' said Sviggum, a Kenyon Republican. " I believe the Twins stadium proposal will pass the Legislature.''

Johnson, DFL-Willmar, said there's more stadium support in the Legislature this year than in a decade of debates. And though Hennepin lawmakers make up a quarter of the Legislature, Johnson said the bill can pass without their support.

The question, he said, is whether that will happen without a local referendum being required. On Tuesday, Hennepin County commissioners voted 4-3 to impose the ballpark tax and seek a legislative exemption from holding a voter referendum, which is usually required before a community can levy a sales tax.

The Twins say a mandatory referendum will kill the deal, because delays will drive up the cost. Legislative leaders support the team in its position, but opponents say the club is really afraid of the plan losing at the polls.

The Pioneer Press contacted 29 of the 53 legislators whose districts are composed totally or partially of Hennepin County communities. Most of those legislators represent districts that are entirely within the county. Of the 29, 16 were against the bill, eight were undecided and five were for it.

Many of those who would cast "no'' votes, however, said they would change their minds if a referendum is required.

"The Legislature will be very hard pressed to turn down a referendum at this point, and that automatically kicks it (a decision) to 2006," said Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal. While it would be possible to hold a vote this coming November, Carlson said it would make more sense for it to coincide with the 2006 general election.

Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said she would not vote for the plan without a referendum.

"This specific plan, it would probably be OK,'' she said, but added that voters would defeat the plan if they get the chance.

Supporters, including Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, said critics might be shortsighted. It's reasonable to expect the county to finance the public portion of the ballpark because it's part of the county's infrastructure, he said. But he acknowledged that if he's going to change legislators' minds, he'll have to work on those who live outside the metro area.

Some of those outstate lawmakers said Wednesday that they want legislative approval for 17 counties and communities to levy local-option sales taxes for projects such as transit, swimming pools, libraries and other cultural centers. During a news conference, they said they may vote for the Twins plan if they get their wishes granted.

"I think there are a lot of rural members who would like to have (the Twins ballpark) done and wouldn't mind a bit if Hennepin County paid for it," remarked Rep. Barb Sykora, a Republican from the Hennepin community of Excelsior. Sykora didn't know yet how she would vote.

It will be likely that she'll get a chance, Sviggum said. Once the Legislature deals with state budget, education and other crucial issues, the ballpark bill will be up at bat. If Gov. Tim Pawlenty were forced to call a special session if the Legislature didn't conclude important business by its mandatory May 23 adjournment, the ballpark could be among the issues taken up in the additional session, Sviggum said.

If the bill passes without a referendum, the issue would return to the Hennepin County Board, which would have to vote a second time before the tax is levied.

For now, at least, the Twins contend the deal is dead if a vote of county citizens is mandated at the Capitol. Whether they'll soften is as unknown as the longevity of a relief pitcher.

The first Capitol hearings will begin next week.
Minnesota Vikings....Daunte's team.
FSU: #3 recruiting class in the nation.
FSUViking is offline   Reply With Quote