Carolyn Laine: Why I Voted against Vikings Stadium Bill

Of Fridley's three reps in House, she was only 'No' vote.

State Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL-50A) explained her "No" vote on the Minnesota Vikings stadium bill in an email to constituent Wednesday:

The Vikings stadium bill was one of the hardest votes I recall as a state representative. There are good and important reasons both to support and to oppose the proposal. I listened carefully to them all. Based on my own conscience, as well as what I discerned to be the majority opinion of my constituents, I finally voted no.

Although the argument that stadium construction would provide much needed jobs was extremely persuasive to me – my heart goes out to unemployed trades people – I could not rationalize the stadium as the best way to do that. (A robust bonding bill would create opportunities all over the state for construction projects.)

The passionate love by many people for the Vikings was evident in the last week or so. At many levels, having the Vikings as a part of Minnesota is a wonderful thing. There is a pride and excitement in the home team. Businesses, schools and families include the games in their lives. This addition to our quality of life must be taken into consideration.   

But the trade-off was just too great.

The primary concern I have is funding a new stadium from gambling revenues. There is a very high likelihood that this source of revenue will simply not produce the promised amount of money. When this happens, our greater state priorities related to education, the elderly, lower property taxes, health care, law enforcement, etc. will be shortchanged. I am also very concerned this extension of gambling will bring the harms and costs associated with gambling to our communities. 

I was glad to vote for a major amendment that created the needed revenue stream from user fees. Those who love and patronize the Vikings could provide the necessary funding through additional sales tax on memorabilia, concessions, luxury suites, parking, etc. This could have been a win-win but was rejected as not acceptable to the Vikings.

The Vikings negotiated a very sweet deal. For instance, they claim their share of the cost of construction is slightly more than the state’s. However, part of that is simply their purchasing the naming rights, a cost they will more than recoup by selling those rights. How is that a fair share of the costs? Shouldn’t the state receive or share in the profit from selling the naming rights? After all, it is considered “the people’s stadium.”

Some of my concerns were addressed in amendments. The Senate has also added amendments. The bill must now be reconsidered in a conference committee. We shall see what emerges. But Monday I could not in good conscience vote for a bill that seems to me to be harmful to the long-range interests of the state. Perhaps I was wrong and the arguments in favor of the proposal turn out to be correct. But since I do not think they will, I cast a no vote.

AKA May 09, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Two questions I have, with regard to the state funding mechanism: What information does Rep. Laine have that leads her to believe that the proposed state funding mechanism will not be sufficient? I'd like to see this substantiated. My understanding is that the projections provided (and which some may doubt) were provided by the state department of revenue, which are generally conservative estimates. There's been a lot of insinuation that those numbers are not reliable, but on what grounds? I also have heard the suggestion that people vulnerable to gambling addiction may be hurt most by this. I understand that this is a very real problem, but how would modernizing an existing form of gambling "extend" it, to the degree that it would significantly affect people? Are there not already many, many ways to gamble in the state of MN? State scratch-offs, state and interstate number lotteries, bingo halls, tribal casinos, racetracks, casino games in racetracks and pull tabs. Not to mention permissible private social gambling. If people are looking to gamble, I do not think they're waiting for electronic pulltabs to do it.
Marlene Hoda May 10, 2012 at 03:51 AM
I share your opposition to the Viking’s stadium bill. I oppose the Vikings new football stadium for many good and sensible reasons. As you know, in March an agreement for a $975 million fixed-roof stadium near the Metrodome was announced between the Vikings, the Governor, Legislative leaders, the mayor and council president of Minneapolis, and various business and labor leaders. The state would raise its share of the funds through charitable gambling. That is more than generous considering these challenging economic times. We are going through the worst economic times since the great depression and it is insane to consider putting money that is generated by the state (even gambling moneys) into a “game.” At a time when health care for people with disabilities, public schools, colleges, and universities, nursing homes, the courts, law enforcement, and other crucial state and local functions are squeezed by budget cuts. The Vikings professional football team is fully capable of financing the project on its own and should not be a priority and burden on the state.


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