Twins Stadium: Verbatim testimony from the House

After all the amendments to the Twins stadium bill had been considered, members of the Minnesota House engaged in about an hour of debate, culminating a marathon, seven-hour session on the issue. What follows is the majority of that final testimony, with just a few gaps due to a tape running out and requiring replacement.

Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL) Willmar 5th Term It is time to move on with this issue. I was here in 1997. Our first year 11 bills were introduced regarding a new professional baseball stadium. Arne Carlson called us in for a special session and we took our first vote. Members that was ten years ago. Every year since we've had bills, we've had meetings, we've had talks, we've had task forces.

You know Rep. Lenczewski and to my Hennepin County friends, I wish we did have something else here to vote on today aside from a tax on Hennepin County. But you know no one ever came to try and put this together.

Rep. Dean Urdahl (R- Grove City) 2nd Term This may represent our last best chance to keep our team here for future generations to make their memories. Baseball contributes to our economy, provides jobs and tax dollars, but more than that, baseball has a way of identifying who we are, our quality of life. It is about heroes, past, present and future. Baseball is about us. Let's build this ballpark and keep baseball in Minnesota.

Rep. Paul Gazelka (R-Brainerd) 1st Term For those of you that still may be on the fence, I want to give you some reasons why someone like me that was on the fence has made the decision to vote for the Twins stadium. The two questions I asked myself going into this is do the Twins benefit the state? And when you ask that question you have to say yes, both in revenues and jobs and in recreation. And the second question related to that is, Will the Twins leave? That's the part we've had great debate on and some people say yes they will and some say no way. Again I believe the risk is too great to take that chance. I wanted a referendum like many of you I voted for the referendum and I think that is the way to do it. But this is the final bill. This is the bill we have to deal with. We give money to Schubert, to Ordway, to other places that give a form of recreation. The Twins are another form. We try and help businesses too and this is a form of a business. In fact Job Z just had a report, and we invested $6 million in tax benefits to Job Z programs last year and we created 3,000 jobs and $80 million worth of salaries. So, in effect we are going to do some of the same things here. We're not going to get new jobs but we are going to keep jobs in Minnesota. Finally the Hennepin County Board has agreed to it; the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce has agreed to it; the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has decided to stay neutral because I think they know this will help our state and it is right for our state. So if you are on the fence like I was, I hope you'll vote yes.

Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL--Minneapolis) 10th Term We've been talking about one tradition in Minnesota when we talk about the Twins, but there is another tradition in Minnesota that I want to talk to you about. I think you know as well as I do that Minnesota citizens have a long tradition of giving back to the community that gave them their start. Think about 3M and the McKnight Foundation, or Alan Page and the Page Education Foundation that supports minority students. The list is long and what it has in common is an understanding that one doesn't make a huge amount of money in this state, unless the larger community has provided a well-educated workforce and the infrastructure like roads and transit and airplanes get the goods and employees to their destination. Ordinary Minnesotans give back even more. It is just our tradition. Now along comes Carl Pohlad and his lobbyists, who want to change that tradition dramatically. They want you to endorse a new culture in Minnesota, a culture of greed. They have told you, those of you who are not in Hennepin County, that you can get something for nothing. It is very appealing, I understand that. And, by the by, Carl Pohlad would greatly increase the value of his investment in the Twins and giving as little as he possibly can back, a huge gift to Mr. Pohlad. That is what is so wrong. To give this gift, Mr. Pohlad wants us, the leaders of this state, to endorse the culture of greed. That is enough reason to vote no.

Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) 9th Term Way back when the author first introduced this bill early today, he introduced it by saying this is a simple, straightforward proposal. It is. And here is what that proposal is: Everyone on this floor loves the Twins, but no one wants to pay for them. That's what we've learned today after a long, long discussion. Rep. Gazelka just said he asked himself a question: Do the Twins benefit the state? And, he says, yes. But we conclude even then, no one wants to pay for it. We want only a small group of taxpayers--who are not us--to pay for it. So what do we have before us? What is coming to the Governor's desk? The Governor has coming to his desk with this bill, what a no new taxes era really means. And apparently he has even said that is okay. We have discovered that this no new taxes era really means no new taxes for my constituents but only for Hennepin County. That's what we have discovered today. This is passing, and everyone knows it, only because members can say to their constituents, you're not paying for it. Only the taxpayers of Hennepin County are paying for it. That is the only way this has been able to be packaged to pass. Everyone admits that. Not only that, we have been told very clearly over and over, if there is a referendum, it will be defeated. So we even know, everyone is acknowledging, that local taxpayers don't support this. And yet we are proceeding as if we are doing a great thing today. With this bill, we are funding a regressive sales tax on one-fourth of the state, we are not even using that tax revenue for funding education or transportation for the state. We used to dream about passing a half-cent sales tax to fund a system of public mass transit in the metro area. We lose that opportunity once we go forward with this bill. Members, those of you who have served with me for some time know that I am not classically a stadium opponent. In 1997 I think it was, I was recorded as a yes vote on a Twins bill. What has happened since then? Since then, we have cut the heck out of everything we can possibly get our hands on. We have cut the heck out of higher education, hundreds of millions; education, health care and on and on. And, we are unwilling to raise taxes for anything; transportation, even getting people to work, a transportation system that would get people to work. That is what we have come to. And so today, though not classically a stadium opponent, I have to say, what are my priorities for this state, and what is the timing of those priorities? And there is no way I can say yes today to this proposal. Unfair, singling out a single group of taxpayers, and certainly not in keeping with those priorities that the public is making so clear to us today that we are failing on. Members I encourage a no vote.

Rep. Randy Demmer (R-Hayfield) 2nd Term Members what a day we had today! I have three points. The first is economic development. It has been very interesting to listen to the gnashing of teeth if you will, from the folks from Hennepin County and the greater metropolitan area, complaining about a $500 and some odd million investment your area. Those of us in Greater Minnesota have looked for programs that help draw investment a fraction of this size to our area to provide the jobs and the economic vitality and even the enjoyment that something like this could offer. So I find it very interesting that it is going to take a lot of us from outside the area to impose this economic boom, if you will, on your area. Your communities, your counties, your cities here in the metropolitan area use things like tax increment financing, tax abatement, probably have advocated at some time for sales tax exemptions to try and get businesses to grow and provide jobs. This is a three-year project or whatever it is going to take to build it, a tremendous economic development project for construction as well as the ongoing jobs, I just find that very interesting.

But I'm going to change tack a bit, and I'm going to talk about what this is going to mean. Representative Rukavina, you've got your Aunt Gloria; I've got my Aunt Irene. My Aunt Irene is over 90 years old and lives in Waseca. Irene never misses a Twins game. Ever. And I'm just glad that she's alive long enough for me to be part of making sure that she can see Twins baseball and listen to Twins baseball for the rest of her years because she just really relishes Twins games. So Irene this is for you if you're watching.

And the last thing: Someday I'm hoping to have an opportunity to sit with my daughters, hopefully my daughters' husbands, my grandkids, at this new ballpark. And I'm going to be able to look back, if we get this thing done, and I'm going to say we are here because of one day in April of 2006, when we had the opportunity and we seized that, and I was part of that, to make this happen and it is a good thing. The alternative, if we don't do this, is I might be sitting with my daughters, or my daughters' husbands or my grandchildren, watching the Las Vegas Twins on TV, and I can say I was part of them not being here. Aren't we happy? Members this is a great opportunity for us.

Rep. Neil Peterson (R-Bloomington) 1st Term A number of years ago when I came to the Twin Cities, I was a young banker and I had the opportunity to go to a credit meeting at Marquette Bank. And the Chairman and the President of that bank, Mr. Carl Pohlad came in and gave we young lending officers a real lesson in credit administration and how to run a business. And I still remember that day; I was absolutely in awe of him, because I knew he had taken a small group of banks that was owned by [another] family and he had grown it into a very, very significant organization. And I learned later that he also was the founder and assembler of many, many large corporations, all of which have benefited this state and this community a great deal by offering jobs. And then last year as a new representative I received in the mail a copy of a new report of the Pohlad Foundation. And I was so impressed by what they had done as a benefactor for this community. So I think it is appropriate, I did not want us to walk out of here today having maligned the name of Carl Pohlad. Far be it. This is an honorable, wonderful family that has been a great credit to this community and we should be appreciating that we are still calling them the Minnesota Twins and not the Clark County Twins.

Rep. Mark Olson (R- Big Lake) 7th Term Members we pledge allegiance to the flag of the republic for which we stand and we talk about ourselves as a democracy, and now today we have an opportunity to vote to make ourselves more of a plutocracy, by voting to add almost a billion dollars of revenue for a private entity, from a county that has almost $40 million in cuts in human services. A plutocracy. From a republic to a democracy to a plutocracy. Some of you will laugh at this, some of you will smirk at this and some of you will take it to heart. But consider that government debt in America--Medicare, Social Security, deficits, and household spending debt divided up per household, is over a half a million dollars per household nationwide. For the first time since the depression we have negative savings rates. Bankruptcy rates are at an alarming level. And we know what gas prices continue to do to the economy. I don't think this is the time nor the hour to support multimillion-dollar subsidies to millionaires and billionaires. A note that I received via email today from a constituent states: "We strongly urge you to vote against any bill that gives as much as a single penny of taxpayer money towards any stadium. It is not government's function to be entering into a private business. It is not the state's interest. If it were such a good moneymaker, why will the main beneficiary be Carl Pohlad when he goes to sell the team? There are so many other issues we should be spending money on: Schools, transportation, health care"--and let me add, the environment, as we noted yesterday. "We say no to taxpayer money for millionaires to play a game." If you total up the revenues to subsidize the Twins stadium, the Gophers stadium and the Vikings stadium, it is almost two billion dollars. If the life of those stadiums is 20 years, or a little longer, you know what that adds up to. I think this is a bit absurd. Or obscene. We've heard talk of job zones that benefit, or economic development that benefit, and we have heard from Representative Peterson the history of jobs from Mr. Pohlad. And that's a history I commend. Because that's a history where those jobs were earned. They were established by initiative, by credibility, by integrity, I trust. Those were jobs established in the marketplace. See, historically, members, we were a republic. We had property rights. We could take initiative. We could exercise ourselves in the free marketplace and make the world a better place for everybody. And we all benefited with tax revenues. All the benefits from this stadium could come to this state, as all the stadiums across the nation could benefit the states they are located in, and every owner and every players would still make millions of dollars. That's what's so obscene about this. The one amendment that should have gone that did not damage this bill at all is the amendment to move the attorney general in taking action that is vitally important so we are not back here in 20 years after spending millions of dollars every year to subsidize these stadiums that do not give us a return that exceeds the investment. See that is the guarantee of the free marketplace. Those marketplace decisions that Representative Peterson talked about guaranteed a return. And when the returns weren't there, other decisions were made. But today we turn to politics. When there is no return, come to the Legislature! We'll pay the bill! A republic to a democracy to a plutocracy. It's a travesty. It's a tragedy. It's fast becoming our history. I'm not a doomsdayist. I don't think things have to be bleak. If we vote no, we can turn the helm. We can turn about. I submit to you members that this a grave error, and I would urge a no vote.

Author of Twins Stadium Bill, Rep. Brad Finestad (R-New Ulm) 2nd Term Thank you members. This has been a long hard process but it has been a great process. I was talking to some people and I was saying I'm 29 years old but I feel like I'm 55. Members we have an opportunity in front of us to solve a problem. I have to thank Hennepin County. They have taken the directions the state and the members of this body have given them over the last ten years and they have acted upon that and they have come to us with a negotiated agreement with the Twins to get the job done. You and I, with our green vote tonight, can put an issue behind us. We can move on to bigger and better things. This issue has been around the last five, six, seven election cycles. Wouldn't it be great to all run again on a post-stadium issue election, where we can talk about bigger and better things? Members, this is a proposal that gets the job done, this keeps the Twins in the state, and this is our opportunity to put our fingerprints on the future of baseball in Minnesota and the future of economic development in Minnesota and the future of quality of life issues in Minnesota. Members, I ask you for a green vote tonight. It is time for Minnesota and the legislators to play ball.

Rep. Ron Erhardt (R-Edina) 8th Term I have always believed that the Twins are a great asset to Minnesota and the metropolitan area and that's why in '97 I voted for the bill that was primarily fees and in 2002 I voted for the Twins bill, which was in addition to some fees it actually had a referendum required of the city that was going to put the Twins in place and it had some other things. But I am going to suggest to you that this bill is the biggest grab of someone else's property since the mid-1600s, when the Dutch settlers of New York bought Manhattan from the Native Americans for $26 and some trinkets. Then it was land and now it is money that will be stolen. You all want to pay a few trinkets in sales tax if you happen to come to Hennepin County. Let me tell you that the State raises $9.4 billion in sales and income tax. Thirty percent, or $2.8 billion, is raised in Hennepin County. And what happens to that money? The State spends $484 million in LGA [local government aid], of which 71 percent goes out of Hennepin County. Hennepin County receives $100 million, the rest of you people get $384 million. Of the $100 million we get, $93 million goes to Minneapolis, so the rest of Hennepin County gets $7 million out of sales and income tax. Now you have to remember also, to put another way, Hennepin County receives aids from the State of $2100 per capita, but it pays into the state $3200 per capita. And either to refine that a little more you will say that the sales taxes collected in Hennepin County are $1058 per capita. The State average is $689 dollars [per capita]. And now you want to lay some more sales tax on top of that. I think this bill is absolutely the most incredible exercise in selfishness on the part of you who live outside of Hennepin County and who are voting for the bill. You should be ashamed of yourselves for putting on the residents of Hennepin County the extra burden of the stadium tax. And I would suggest, Representative Demmer, wherever you are, that we have our Aunt Irenes and Aunt Glorias in Hennepin County as well. And they are going to be paying for this while yours are sitting out there and enjoying it on TV. I just think it is time that somebody stands up for the taxpayers of Hennepin County and here I stand.

Rep. Andrew Westerberg (R-Blaine) 4th Term Members I want to take a couple minutes to talk about another stadium. I'll be real short, just three quick points. The Twins will leave the Metrodome and they are there 80 days a year as a tenant. And the Gophers are also leaving and I think the Metrodome's days are numbered. It can no longer compete on a national basis for national events. The Gophers and Twins are important to our state but I believe we are saving the best for last--the Anoka County Vikings stadium proposal. Just those three quick points. One, a public facility is what we're looking at that is actually open to the public with things like rock concerts and tractor pulls, prayer conferences, high school football. And this new facility would be climate controlled. Keep in mind that if the Metrodome does go away we'll lose the climate-controlled facility to hold many of the events that we need that technical facility for. And even though the Vikings will only play ten to fifteen games per year, the stadium will have a greater positive economic impact on our state than the other two stadiums and that is an important thing to keep in mind. Also it is not just a stadium, but a stadium with a billion dollars of private investment money.

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville) 4th Term Earlier today I talked a little about the process I went through in trying to determine if I was going to support this bill. And I was looking for some kind of message or direction from the legislators from Hennepin County. In my eight years here, I cannot remember another situation in which we so totally ignored the local representatives' wishes on a particular issue. We generally turn to those people that represent that area of the state, or have expertise in that area for direction on how this body should act on a particular issue. When I look at the vote totals on the Lenczewski amendment [calling for the referendum to be put back in], I figured that there were 33 members of this body who represented at least part of Hennepin County. Of those 33 members, 27 of them wanted an opportunity for their taxpayers to vote on this issue. The body ignored that. I believe this is a major steamroller and I think it is so wrong. This is a process and this is an institution in which I've invested a lot of time and everybody in this room has also. I think we are breaking very dangerous ground here today. Hennepin County has nearly a quarter of the representatives in this body and we are steamrolling them. What's next? Olmstead County? Shall we impose a sales tax on Olmstead County to build a volleyball center or a bioscience center, or the Mayo expansion? Bemidji, I think Bemidji only has one representative. Shall we pass, ignore state law and pass a law that says they are going to tax themselves for a Bemidji arena? How about St. Cloud? The St. Cloud area has, what, four or five reps? Let's put a sales tax on them for their convention center. And while we're at it, St. Louis County, there's a handful of representatives there. Let's let them tax themselves for what they need for the DEC [a Duluth convention facility]. I think it's wrong, the wrong precedent. So what I am going to say to today, I am going to say to the taxpayers of Hennepin County, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that the whole of this body will likely ignore the wishes of your representatives and impose upon you against their wishes. I am sorry that four of your seven commissioners are completely comfortable in ignoring state law and imposing a sales tax on you against your wishes. And because the Lenczewski amendment failed, you will not have an opportunity to vote on this sales tax. But you will have an opportunity to vote in November and I recommend that you use that opportunity.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) 2nd Term Thank you. You know we have debated a lot of amendments today, but really the only reason we are here is because Hennepin County and the Twins don't want to do a referendum. That's what the issue is. We've debated a lot of peripheral issues, but the reason this is before us is because they want to circumvent state law. That is the one issue that we need to vote upon. It is problematic that Representative Lenczewski has to offer an amendment to preserve the status quo! That's what she did. And quite frankly I don't know what Hennepin County is so afraid of. When I talk to constituents, some of them oppose the stadium, but others say, you know I'm neutral on the stadium but just give us a chance to vote. And the history of referenda on stadiums is relatively positive. In Detroit they passed a referendum for Comerica Park, in Cincinnati Great American Ballpark passed with a referendum. In Houston, Minute Maid Park passed, San Francisco, Pacific Bell Park passed with a referendum. Many many football stadiums passed with referendums. The Browns, Ford Field for the Lions, Nashville, Tampa, San Francisco, Denver, Green Bay, Phoenix, all of them passed with referenda. So members, I think the public is concerned about the proposal and about the taxation, but they are also concerned about the process. It just seems like every time we have this it is our way or the highway; the steamroller as Representative Holberg said, and watch out Anoka County, because you're next.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis ) 17th Term I can't resist all the stories the people have told about how much their aunts have loved baseball and so forth. Well first of all, I'm old enough that all my aunts are dead. And second of all, they didn't like baseball very much anyway, even though we grew up in the absolute center of the universe for baseball [New York City]. But so instead I'll talk about my grandchildren. I just came back, at the beginning of the year, from the birth of a new grandchild in Montreal. Montreal is the city you recall that just lost the Expos. So Montreal should be like a cold Omaha. But I'll tell you, Montreal is a spectacular city. And my grandkids have terrific health care, state-subsidized daycare where they are not only learning perfect French but even some English at the time. They've got terrific health care and event he streets and the sidewalks are plowed by the city. And I didn't hear anyone there tell me they missed the Expos.

Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover) 2nd Term I couldn't let it go here without a brief bit of information to correct the record. I started hearing all sorts of talk now and the economic argument has started to rear its head. I just want the members of the media to know and the people watching at home, we don't know about the economic benefits of this stadium. One of the things I asked when the Twins came to visit me with their lobbyists a few months ago, I said, it appears to me that you are asking the public to invest its dollars and I want to know if you've done your cost-benefit, I want to see the numbers. I'm from a business background and that's what we do before we invest. That hasn't been done. So in other words, I just want the taxpayers to know that we are about to embark--or at least the taxpayers in Hennepin County are about to embark on an $850 million investment with no due diligence done. That's by the Twins' admission. No due diligence has been done. So let's make sure we know what we're talking about here. Somehow I get the feeling Representative Peterson, I have never met Mr. Pohlad, I am sure he is a nice man and I have to believe he is a good businessman. Nobody gets as wealthy as he does without some good due diligence on his own, so I imagine if I went to him and told him I had a great deal for him that would cost him about $850 million over the course of the next 30 years, somehow I get the feeling that the first words out of his mouth would be, Show me your numbers. Show me the due diligence. So members, I just want you to be aware of that. Representative Nelson, you talked about all the jobs that will be created. I can't help but think about all the jobs that won't be created. As Representative Krinkie pointed out, many businesses in Hennepin County will pay the freight, and that's dollars that they won't have to hire and engage in research and development and engage in expansion of their businesses. So it is very easy for advocates of this bill to show jobs that will be created. It is much harder to show but just as true that many jobs won't be created. Members you can't change the reality that government does not create wealth. We don't create jobs. We only take from one and give to another. I just wanted to correct the record today.

Rep. Phil Krinkie (R-Lino Lakes) 8th Term Members I am going to be brief. Since we are talking about baseball I feel it is appropriate to use a baseball analogy. We already sent the Gopher stadium bill out of here at a cost of $254 million to the taxpayers of the State of Minnesota. We are about to embark on spending another $850 million in taxpayer spending on the Twins stadium bill. And Representative Westerberg has been talking about a Vikings stadium, and I'm sure before the session is over, people will have an opportunity to vote on a Vikings stadium. And members who is in the on deck circle? That's right, the Target Center! It opened for expansion in 1990 and is the seventh oldest arena in the NBA. Other buildings of the same vintage have been replaced or renovated. The City of Minneapolis, the Timberwolves and the arena management officials said that the Target Center needs more improvements to keep up.

Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) 7th Term This is the second strikeout for the students of our state. The first strikeout was the Gophers stadium. This was the second strikeout. And now Representative Westerberg tells us that the batter is up for the Vikings. Members, the next meeting I am going to as soon as we get done here is the Ways and Means Committee. We're discussing the Omnibus Finance Bill and it does not have a penny in it for education, early childhood, K-12 or higher ed. Not a penny. And I don't think we've spent a fraction of the time trying to figure out how to fund our schools and our students and our colleges and universities compared to what we've put into this stadium this session and today. It makes my heart heavy. Where are our priorities?

Rep. Peter Nelson (R-Lindstrom) 2nd Term Mr. Speaker and members, about seven hours ago I introduced you to an all star and read you some of his statistics. Schoolboy Johnson led the league in home runs; that is one I didn't tell you about. And I think it is a good segue, Representative Dempsey, you may have heard this even shorter commencement: Touch 'em all, Kirby Puckett! Touch 'em all.