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Opinion: Vikings Stadium, Court Ruling About Unionizing Child Care Providers

Rep. Joyce Peppin (32A) provides an legislative update April 20.

Editor's note: The following is reprinted, with permission, from Rep. Joyce Peppin's weekly email newsletter. Peppin (32A) represents several communities, including Maple Grove.

Dear Neighbors,

In this edition:

1. Vikings Stadium

2. Governor’s Actions Deemed Unconstitutional

3. Property Tax Refunds

1. Vikings Stadium

The proposal for a new Vikings stadium has often been the leading focus of this year’s legislative session, and to an even greater extent, it has received overwhelming attention since legislators voiced serious concerns and opposition to it this past week.

As you know, on Monday evening the Vikings stadium legislation (House File 2810) was defeated on a 9-6 vote in the Government Operations and Elections Committee which I chair. I voted against the bill, and for very well-considered reasons.

Since my election to the Legislature, I have consistently opposed the use of taxpayer dollars to build stadiums for privately operated professional sports teams. My historical record of opposition is clear as I voted against public funding for the Twins (Target Field) and Gophers (TCF Bank Stadium).

In spite of my opposition, I felt it was important to give the Vikings stadium bill a hearing in which both sides could make their case. Secondly, I felt it was important there be a recorded vote so the public would know exactly how legislators voted on the issue. Too often, government operates under a cloak of secrecy in which average taxpayers are unable to make sense of what happens and why it happens. I firmly believe an open, transparent process in which legislators are clearly on the record is always best.

The proposal had several key shortcomings. The first is the uncertainty surrounding public financing of the stadium. The bill called for the use of proceeds from electronic pulltabs and other expanded gambling to back the appropriations bonds necessary to finance the stadium’s construction. Let me point out that I am not anti-gambling and have in the past supported racino legislation which would permit expanded gambling at Canterbury Park.

However, there is no history of e-pulltabs being successful in the United States, much less to the degree necessary to finance a new stadium. Because of this, the professional investment community and bond counsel which sell these less common appropriations bonds on the open market required a revenue stream double that normally required for bonds with less risk. While I believe charitable gambling proceeds will increase with e-pulltabs, I am highly skeptical the increase will come anywhere near that required to pay back bondholders. This would put taxpayers at further risk. The bill did contain fallback funding mechanisms, but one of those, using proceeds from the Twins stadium tax, was highly controversial and was amended out of the bill in committee.

Additionally, it has been known by those involved that for any stadium legislation to pass, it must have bipartisan support. This was the history of how the Twins stadium legislation was ultimately approved. As you may have read, with the exception of one Democrat on the committee, every DFL member voted against the bill. In contrast, five Republicans voted for the bill. Governor Dayton was simply unsuccessful in convincing members of his party –including two from Minneapolis, the city with the most to gain from a new stadium – from supporting one of his strongest legislative priorities. Organized labor and unions, a key constituency of DFL legislators, were also unsuccessful in securing the votes of Democratic committee members. Additionally, the absence of R.T. Rybak, who, as Minneapolis mayor has the most to gain from passage of stadium legislation, was shocking. His failure to appear before the committee and advocate for a $1 billion construction project in his city shows an alarming level of disinterest.

While I believe the Vikings are an important state asset, I do not believe it is a proper function of government to pick winners and losers with tax dollars. There are many small businesses in my legislative district and throughout the state whom employ tens of thousands of people, pay millions in taxes and create spin-off employment and revenue who will never be eligible and never ask for taxpayer financing of their business.

I do understand many have strong views on this subject. I respect those views. In the end, I voted as a large majority of my constituents have asked me to vote on using taxpayer dollars in this way. While the bill is stalled in the House, it may proceed in the Senate, and a roadmap for possible success has been drawn for stadium supporters. While I will carefully analyze the bill if it comes to the House floor for a vote, unless the legislation is changed to remove the use of tax dollars to build a stadium, I will vote no.

2. Governor’s Actions Deemed Unconstitutional

This month a Ramsey County Court judge ruled that Governor Dayton over-stepped his authority. His actions were deemed unconstitutional in an attempt to unionize Minnesota child care providers.

Before the ruling, several child care providers in our district expressed their distress over the potential election that would have far-reaching effects for their privately owned and operated businesses. And understandably so. Only those providers who receive state subsidies would have been given the opportunity to vote in the unionization election, and even though the governor and his union allies stated that unionization would not affect private providers, other examples across the country prove that’s often not the case during implementation. For example, many other unions, such as our teachers unions, require that non-members pay “fair share” dues.

I stand in favor of the court’s decision that Governor Dayton violated the separation of powers, and that a lawmaking decision of this magnitude should be left to the Legislature.

3. Property Tax Refunds

Last year the Legislature passed and Governor Dayton signed $30 million in property tax refunds for homeowners. To learn more about whether or not you qualify for an additional refund, watch a video here.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to serve as your state representative. Please feel free to contact me at any time.

Have a great weekend,

Joyce


Leo Ganzer April 21, 2012 at 01:01 AM
You say you are for the Racino yet it never gets done. A Racino would provide help to the dying horse race breeding industry.A Racino would also help pay for the Vikings stadium yet it never gets done. So soon the multi-billion dollar NFL business and horse racing industry with all it's potential for jobs in rural minnesota will be gone from the state. Regardless of what party is too blame Ms Peppin you have failed and all your do-nothing cohorts in St Paul will be cursed for years for losing the Vikings and the horse track.
James Wrobel May 06, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I respectfully disagree with your statement that the majority of your constituents would want you to vote no due to the use of taxpayer dollars. I think in this instance you will find that the vast majority want this Vikings deal to pass and if it doesn't I think that the vast majority of people are going to hold the ones who vote against it accountable. The Vikings are a state asset and this project will pay the state back in immense dividends in jobs, taxes and benefits to all of the small businesses you mention, not mention all of the other statewide events that can use the facility once it is built. The alternative is a choice for a crumbling empty metrodome, loss of jobs, business and tax revenue.

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