Citywide sales tax, statewide pull-tabs might pay for Vikings stadium

Just 20 more ideas, and we'll get this stadium thing figured out.
Just 20 more ideas, and we'll get this stadium thing figured out.

The Minnesota Vikings new stadium has led to a stack of ideas from public officials on how to get the thing built and paid for.

Tax on Ramsey County? State legacy funds? Block E Casino downtown? Now, there are two more ideas: One, from mayor RT Rybak to keep the team in Minneapolis with a city sales tax increase. The other, a statewide influx of taxes from electronic pull-tab machines in bars, might keep the team in Minnesota.

Admittedly, not all of these are actually good ideas. But they are ideas! It's amazing how the threat of the pro football team leaving town makes everyone snap into action.

Imagine if everyone had this many ideas when they tried to come up with a plan for the state budget.

Hey, maybe that's not a bad idea. How about every year, there's a clause in the budget proposal that says "OR THE VIKINGS WILL MOVE TO LOS ANGELES." There would never, ever be a shutdown, and the state would be awash in new ideas.

RT Rybak, Barb Johnson: These two are the ones with the sales tax idea. (No, the other one.)
RT Rybak, Barb Johnson: These two are the ones with the sales tax idea. (No, the other one.)

Rybak's city sales tax plan, as announced on Monday, seemed like a viable idea when it came from our dashing, confident mayor. But now that the Star Tribune actually asked the city council -- something that Rybak apparently forgot to do -- it might be a non-starter.

Six council members said, flatly, that they are opposed to a sales tax increase, and only one, President Barb Johnson, was definitely in favor of it.

The actual plan, with the numbers and stuff, isn't even out yet, but already it's unpopular. Johnson and Rybak know that, and she's willing to push the plan -- once it actually exists.

"We're going to work on people," Johnson said.

Johnson said convincing the council would be a "harder leap" than getting the sales tax past another governing body: The people of Minneapolis. Turns out, the city charter forces a public referendum any time the city wants to spend more than $10 million on a sports stadium. Rybak's not too keen on turning this thing over to city voters, and the referendum clause can be avoided if the state legislature votes it down, but that seems unlikely at this point.

So, anyone else got any -- oh, yeah, who was the guy with the gambling machine idea? Let's hear more about that one. Whaddya got?

The idea for funding the stadium with electronic pull-tab machines comes from Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, who pitched the idea to Mark Dayton last week and now is trying to sell the public. 

Bakk told the Pioneer Press the electronic version of pull-tabs, the paper version of which are already sold in thousands of Minnesota bars, could bring in $40 million in state revenue each year. That's twice the required annual $20 million to pay for the stadium. (Let's build two Vikings stadiums! Go big or go home!)

Okay, so surely, somewhere in this pile of funding proposals is a good idea. And, knowing our recent luck, Minnesota's elected officials will do everything possible to get rid of that good idea, and force the worst possible situation. City Pages predicts that, after months of negotiations, the state, the city of Minneapolis, and Ramsey County will somehow be on the hook for a $1 billion stadium... for the Los Angeles Vikings.


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