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GOPers question Vikings financing, pitch new taxes

Jake Grovum//April 26, 2012

GOPers question Vikings financing, pitch new taxes

Jake Grovum//April 26, 2012

Sen. David Hann (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

With the Vikings bill awaiting action on the House floor but reeling in the Senate after a marathon Finance Committee hearing Wednesday, some legislative Republicans on Thursday renewed their questioning and objections to the way the project’s backers have looked to pay for their plans.

GOP Rep. Mike Benson and Sen. David Hann, joined by seven other House GOPers at a Capitol news conference, questioned not only the fiscal assumptions made by supporters of the bill, but the very concept of using expanded gambling to pay for the state’s share.

“Is that the way we want to fund our stadium?” Benson asked. “As a society, we need to ask ourselves if we really want to introduce a new generation of Minnesotans to the addiction of gambling.”

Benson also said he’s prepared a menu of tax increases to cover the state’s share of the project that he plans to offer as a floor amendment if and when the bill comes up for a vote in the House. Included in that proposal would be everything from memorabilia and stadium sales taxes to a surcharge on player incomes and specialty license plates.

Benson and Hann both called using gaming as a funded mechanism for the stadium a regressive tax that was ill advised and would take advantage of vulnerable Minnesotans. Hann, for his part, questioned why such a round-about plan was needed at all, asking why, if the project is such a good deal for the state, general fund or reserve dollars shouldn’t be use to pay for it.

Hann also said he’d be open to exploring new taxes associated with the stadium and the team as paying for the state’s share of the cost, similar to those included in GOP Sen. Roger Chamberlain’s Vikings bill, of which Hann is a co-author. Both Hann and Benson, though, conceded that a plan relying so heavily on tax hikes would have a hard time being approved in either chamber.

In fact, Hann and Benson both took strides to stress that all of the lawmakers joining them Thursday weren’t necessarily on the same page with tax increases, but were opposed to the way the financing of the bill is currently written. Still, not one of the Republicans present would say whether or not they’d eventually support any Vikings stadium bill, in any form, yet this session.

Aside from the financing details, though, both Hann and Benson sought to slow down the feverish Vikings push that’s taken hold at the Capitol in recent days, saying that rushing a bill through wouldn’t necessarily benefit taxpayers.

“The Vikings are not going anywhere in the next few months,” Benson said flatly.

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