I have heard from so many over the weekend that I have chosen to write you in response. I believe there is an opportunity for a positive conclusion to the session and am sharing my thoughts as to how I think that can be done.
We have an opportunity to reach consensus and deliver on the promise of this legislative session. That would mean we would pass a bonding bill, pass a tax bill and pass a Vikings Stadium bill.
Much has been written about the Southwest Light Rail Transit (LRT) project. It is a top priority of the Minnesota business community. The Governor has pledged his support for the project, as well, but the GOP opposes it.
The GOP has said that business tax relief is their top priority. Governor Dayton has been willing to work on business tax relief provided that it does not increase future deficit projections or drain our State’s budget reserves.
All sides have expressed bi-partisan desire to pass a Vikings Bill, though there is also strong bi-partisan opposition, too. Therefore, counting the votes and delicately maneuvering a stadium bill through the legislative process has proven tricky.
In its current form, the Vikings stadium bill does not rely on any user fees, something that many of us think should be part of the final proposal. An amendment offered in the Senate Committee on Taxes would have added a sales tax to anything that is sold in the new stadium, but it was not adopted.
Why not? It makes sense. Since many have been skeptical that the current proposal for revenue will meet our financial obligation on the stadium, adding some user fees on a strategic basis can provide a backstop for any such shortfall. Unfortunately, Republicans have their hands tied on this option because of their “no new taxes” doctrine.
It is time to get serious. Strategic compromise is an art. One must understand what is of paramount importance to all sides. I suggest the following compromise:
I suggest we put together a bonding bill that includes the Southwest Corridor LRT and begins the renovation of our State Capitol building. I suggest we pass a tax bill that begins the important work of comprehensive tax reform, even if the first phase is simply setting in motion some of the changes to the business side of the ledger. Then, I think we must pass a stadium bill that includes some user fees to give fans their opportunity to contribute to the project.
Solving the puzzle in this way means Republicans will have to swallow the Southwest LRT, which they oppose (though it still gives them a win with their biggest ally—the business community), and user fees at a new Vikings stadium. The Governor and Democrats will have to swallow business tax relief that comes out of the reserves, which they dislike (and rightfully so). Settling on a bonding bill that is at least $496,000,000 is a win for all Minnesotans so long as the investments are prudent.
The framework I have laid out accomplishes and fulfills much of what we had before us this session. It requires all sides agreeing to things they do not agree with. I learned that expression from Governor Dayton. It is apt. Let us all, for the good of the people, agree to agree and close this session in a respectful and orderly way.
Senator Terri Bonoff