Why I Voted “No”.

Dear Friends,
This past week the Minnesota Legislature adjourned. Before leaving St. Paul, we voted on the much anticipated Viking stadium bill.

I have rarely missed a game in 50 years. In short, I’m a big Vikings fan.

This was not about being a fan. It was about how much was being spent and who was going to pay for it. It was a $1 billion stadium and it deserved close scrutiny from your legislator.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it really government’s role to finance private business?
  • Should government provide subsidies to private business (which we call corporate welfare)?
  • After the tough economic decisions that were made to bring Minnesota back to financial stability, is it really prudent to spend another $1/2 billion dollars on a private business that is currently profitable?
  • When the state owes our schools $2 billion, is it right to spend $1/2 billion on private business?

I think the answer to each of these is “no”.

Number of Jobs – Grossly Overstated
The argument that a stadium will spur economic development is empty and false. Numerous economists have published reports that found stadiums do not provide economic opportunity for the host city or state. While the construction jobs that will result are a positive thing, the number of jobs has been overstated substantially. The number of jobs reported by media sources has been between 7,000-10,000 jobs. However, these are not full time jobs. According to the general contractor, Mortenson Construction, the number of project hours is estimated to be 4 million over the three year construction time period. This is the equivalent of 2,000 full time jobs or 667 full time jobs in each of the three year period of construction. While important, the number of jobs is much less than what has been reported.

Taxpayers in Jeopardy
The finance mechanism to pay for the stadium, electronic pull tabs, is not feasible, and will not produce the tax revenues being claimed. In Iowa, the same electronic pull tabs were tried and tax collection estimates failed to materialize-they didn’t even come close. If we are going to meet the revenue projections, people who participate in charitable gambling will need to triple the expenditures they make. That is not believable.

If this plan defaults, and history with electronic pull tabs suggests it will, the backup funding plan is Minnesota’s General Fund. That means you, the taxpayer, will pick up the debt. So instead of providing tax relief – or for those who want to increase spending on schools or health or human services – your tax dollars will instead be used for stadium payments.

Perhaps Financing a New Saints Baseball Stadium?
Also, the stadium bill included $2.7 million in annual payments to the City of St. Paul by Minnesota taxpayers. These payments will last 20 years and are expected to be used to either pay down Xcel Energy Center bonds or to build a new St. Paul Saints baseball stadium. Rumor has it these payments were made to pay for the votes of St. Paul lawmakers. Five St. Paul representatives voted for the bill, while only two Minneapolis reps voted for it, even though their city received the $1 billion stadium.

Vikings could pay as little as 1% of the total cost!
Another issue for me was the size of the contribution by the Vikings, widely and inaccurately, reported as $477 million.

$200 Million-
What is not reported is that the Vikings will receive up to $200 million in naming rights on this “people’s stadium.”
$200 Million-
They also have rights to sell personal seat licenses from which they could receive $100-$200 million.
$200 Million-
In addition, the Vikings will receive a loan/gift from the National Football League for upwards of $200 million.
Exemption-More benefits include a clause in the bill which allows the Vikings to be exempt from state laws requiring public disclosure for taxpayer funded benefits. The public will never know how much in public benefits these owners receive.

All of these, in sum, mean that the Vikings owners, clearly within the top 1% of the income bracket in our country, could be responsible for as little as 1% of the stadium cost. Ironic isn’t it, given all the outrage over the last year from Occupy Minnesota, who were strangely silent over the past few weeks.

I voted “No”.
Because of these facts and others, I could not, in good conscience, vote for the stadium bill. The deal with Vikings is a poor one for Minnesota taxpayers.

Thank you to all who contacted my office regarding this issue. I appreciate hearing from you and I hope you will continue to do so.

Best Regards,
Roger Crawford