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May 1, 2006

Back in the saddle

Greetings and salutations, Greet Machine reader! You know what? I've got to admit something. It is kind of hard to do. I must admit that I don't have a clue what is going to happen. After years of focusing on the House, I have to admit the Senate is almost a complete mystery to me. Sure I know the big players, like Dean Johnson, Dick Day, Larry Pogemiller, John Marty and my own Senator Steve Kelly, but after that ... clueless. For the past three years it has been all about the House. Who is for it in the House? Who is against it in the House? What committees will it go through in the House? The Senate? Piece of cake. We don't need to worry about that! Wow, how wrong can a person get?

A couple of weeks ago, Lori Sturdevant wrote a great column in the Strib that discussed my favorite topic. She ended with this sentiment:

But within the Senate DFL caucus abides a core of bitterness over the fact that Gov. Tim Pawlenty, running as a stadium opponent, defeated then-Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, a stadium supporter, for governor in 2002. The DFLers so afflicted won't let Pawlenty win one or two, let alone three, stadiums without trying to make him squirm first.

So, those of us on stadium politics watch are keeping an eye on Sen. Larry Pogemiller and the drama he directs in the Senate tax committee. Look for a move there to alter the proposals' financing. These are state facilities, he will argue, and should be paid for with an increase in state taxes.

And then look to see if Johnson and the rest of the Senate are more interested in irritating the governor or building some ballparks.

And that, dear friends, is where we are at. What are the true intentions of Dean Johnson and Larry Pogemiller, who are increasingly becoming DFL thorns in T-Paw's side? Before anything can happen, the Twins stadium bill has to be passed out of Pogemiller's Senate Tax Committee. There are four scenarios that I can see:

  1. Pogemiller and the Senate Tax Committee could vote to send the Hennepin County plan as amended and passed out of the House to the floor of the Senate. Alone. Chances: Highly unlikely.
  2. Pogemiller and the Senate Tax Committee could vote to send the Hennepin County plan to the floor of the Senate, but with a referendum attached. Chances: likely
  3. Pogemiller and the Senate Tax Committee could try to pass a form of the idea to impose a 0.5 percent sales tax on the entire seven county metro area to pay for a Twins stadium and a Vikings stadium, plus transit projects. Chances: highly likely.
  4. Or, Pogemiller and the Senate Tax Committee could kill the Twins bill all together. Chances: unlikely.

So, you might be thinking to yourself, great! Let's get the Twins and the Vikings out of the way at the same time! You know, I absolutley agree with you, but there is the little problem of partisan politics and the Republican controlled House's hatred of the idea. Speaker Sviggum said last week:

Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum said there's no chance the new tax plan would win support outside the DFL-controlled Senate, meaning not in the House and not by Pawlenty. Some Senate Republicans claimed Pogemiller is trying to put the heat on Pawlenty to approve taxes he normally would oppose, while minority leader Day said in a statement that Pogemiller's ego is the problem.

Holy crap, can you believe this? What was once a hot potato issue (I'm not going to touch it!), stadiums are now the ultmiate political weapon. What party's plan will ultimately result in stadiums being built in Minnesota? What party will ultimately be able to claim that they finally solved the problem? I have no doubt that Steve Kelly is doing what he thinks is best for the state of Minnesota, and solving two stadium problems at once is definitely best, but overarching this altruistic attitude is the idea of, the appearance of, a DFL victory concerning this issue. And that is a problem for Twins fans.

Unfortunately the best I think we can hope for at this point is the Senate Tax Committee to pass any bill they can, and get it passed on the Senate floor. From there a conference committee could work out the differences so that it has a chance to pass both the House and the Senate. I must say I'm feeling a little more pessimistic every day this drags on.

Back to Sturdevant's column: is the DFL just trying to make T-:Paw squirm? Or do they really think they can pull this off? To put it another way, how far is the DFL willing to push this? Because I can tell you one thing, T-Paw will not sign a bill that includes a 0.5 percent seven county metro-wide sales tax. Or maybe he just won't do it happily.

Again, what the heck do I know? If anyone can shed some light on this, I am all ears. Tomorrow the Senate Tax Committee will meet again sometime after 3 PM where they are expected to vote on the issue. Seriously, I don't think my heart can take this anymore. How many "most important day in Twins franchise history" can we have in the span of two weeks? Apparently not enough.

Posted by snackeru at May 1, 2006 7:24 AM | Stadiums 2006

Comments

One thing which appears to come out crystal clear of this blog is that political forces and parties are more interested in taking credit for the problem than solving the actual problems , as effecting the citizens . Do you think this is the right way to address civil issues?Do sir , we have to move beyond sectarian considerations to really do something about the matter.

Posted by: sam at May 1, 2006 4:20 AM

Hopefully they will at worst pass the Hennipen bill with the referendum. I think the votes would be there on the Senate floor to remove it. If they pass the metro-wide tax it will be a mess and I predict no stadium.

Posted by: David H. at May 1, 2006 10:32 AM

Ladies and gentlemen let's take a deep breath and
evaluate what has happened in the last week:
THE HOUSE PASSED A BALLPARK PLAN THAT IS ESSENTIALLY THE SAME PLAN THAT THE TWINS AND HENNEPIN CO. WORKED OUT OVER A YEAR AGO,THAT SEN.
STEVE KELLEY DFL-HOPKINS AUTHORED AND SUPPORTED AND WHICH SEN.DEAN JOHNSON DFL-WILLMAR VIRTUALLY
GUARANTEED PASSAGE OF,IF ONLY THAT PESKY HOUSE
WOULD PASS IT!
Well,Sen.Johnson it's time for you and the DFL
Senate to put up or shut up on this this bill !
Despite the fact that you will recieve help on this attempt to fool the public from the STRIB and
other DFL friendly media,two things will become obvious:
1) That Sen.Larry Pogemiller really runs the DFL
Senate.AND
2)Sen.Johnson your word is no good on anything!

Posted by: jimj at May 1, 2006 11:07 AM

Is there any word on an official start time for the Tax Committee hearing today?

Posted by: David H at May 1, 2006 11:07 AM

I know politicians aren't above these kind of shenanigans, but I think most Senate DFLers might have honest intentions for the combined bill. It seems their intent is to use little or no state general funds for stadiums, if possible, thereby protecting their other general fund allocations (which have been subject to budget cuts by the House and the governor in recent years). Of course, the Twins ballpark bill doesn't involve state general funds, but since it's probably the most palatable plan of the 3 at this point, they might be using it to leverage the alternative funding for the other two stadiums.

Like I said, I'm not saying politicians are above playing games with this, but I'll try to keep an open mind for now.

Posted by: spycake at May 1, 2006 11:10 AM

Hey spycake first of all your against the ballpark
anyway so the "shenanigans"(a favorite Dean Johnson word) get you what you want which is no
stadium !

Posted by: jimj at May 1, 2006 11:26 AM

Spycake, how does your theory jibe with the fact that the gophers stadium did have alternative funding sources - TCF and student fees -- and those funds were stripped out in Senator Pogemiller's amendment?

Posted by: freealonzo at May 1, 2006 11:36 AM

jimj -- I'm hardly "against the ballpark" in the classic sense, although I do have some concerns about the current plan and especially the ballpark design. Around here I guess that's enough to be permanently labeled "anti-stadium" (thanks, Shane!). Also, I was not aware that Dean Johnson likes the term 'shenanigans'.

freealonzo -- The Gophers stadium had *some* alternative funding sources, but still needed significant state money. I think additional student fees are obviously undesirable, and I do understand some concern that TCF is getting naming rights for its $35 mil "contribution" while the students, the state, and a collection of private donors are all putting up more money without any recognition. If we can re-work the tax to raise more money for the other two stadiums, it's probably not a bad idea to put some towards the Gophers stadium and make the student fees and naming rights money unnecessary.

Of course, Pogemiller may be a nut. I don't know. (I still don't get that "memorabilia tax" proposal.) I just think the Senate has an interest in approving stadiums that fit their budget plans, and not simply approving whatever stadium plans come before them (which right now conveniently fit the House and Governor's agendas quite well). Is that political 'shenanigans' or is that honest negotiation? I can't quite tell yet, but it could go either way. We'll see how the whole thing plays out soon.

Posted by: spycake at May 1, 2006 1:34 PM

A better funding source for the Gopher stadium than TCF and student fees is the sales tax. Many current students who would have to pay for the stadium would enjoy zero percent of a new stadium benefit as it will take a few years to complete. Plus, a minority of the stadium would be paid by TCF and they would get to name the stadium. (It would be a terrible name for a stadium.)

They are also looking for improving other things that would be impacted by the stadiums. That is, roads and transit. (Although this may not be the entire reason for the Senate's actions.) These things will need to be paid for by someone, and this is making sure that funding is there.

While it does jeopardize the deal in a small way, they are mostly trying to do the right thing. Although us Ramsey County residents don't get any stadiums, but still have to pay the tax...

Posted by: DouglasG at May 1, 2006 1:45 PM

Uncle Al has a great column on the stadium in the Star Tribune today. It is actually against the stadium, but in a very sarcastic and funny way. I'd provide the link, but from the instructions that's a no-no.

Posted by: David H at May 1, 2006 2:37 PM

According to the Senate website, the meeting time for the Senate Tax Committee has been changed from 2:30 to 5:00 p.m.

Posted by: David H. at May 1, 2006 2:56 PM

The only stadium bill I would support is the one that raises the sales tax .5% across the whole metro area and pays for transit. This is the only bill that balances the waste of money on stadiums with something usefull. If that doesn't pass I seriously hope the teams leave.

Posted by: .5 sales tax at May 1, 2006 3:07 PM

Without a referendum .5!? What would our friends in the MPLS.DFL Legislative delegation who fought
so hard for OUR RIGHT TO VOTE say about this??
IF SEN. DEAN JOHNSON AND SEN. STEVE KELLEY WOULD
KEEP THEIR PROMISE TO US AND SUPPORT the BILL THAT HAS PASSED THE HOUSE,MAYBE WE WOULD HAVE MORE TIME TO WORK ON THE OTHER ISSUES YOU CONSIDER MORE IMPORTANT !!!

Posted by: jimj at May 1, 2006 3:27 PM

The house bills are a joke! What a waste. This is a great opportunity to get your stadiums and improve transit at the same time. Transit is more important than sports, so this bill actually does something productive. You should be happy about it! Otherwise you can always root for the Las Vegas Twins or the Los Angeles Vikings!

Posted by: .5% metro tax at May 1, 2006 4:10 PM

Holy cow Shane, what ever happpened to the days of 3 or 4 comments per post? Anyway my 2 cents today is that Pogemiller has always struck me as actually being kinda smart (I am not saying I agree with him of course). We have all seen legislators up there bumbling away and have thought that they barely look or sound qualified to ask you if you want fries with that. Pogemiller is the thing we should fear the most; a legislator against a reasonable ballpark plan, who is actually smart.
-Jiminstpaul

Posted by: Jiminstpaul at May 1, 2006 4:33 PM

If we follow your line of thinking .5 we will be
seeing the Las Vegas TWINS because PAWLENTY will
NOT sign it because it contains a TAX INCREASE,which I believe you fully realize!BOY THAT PAWLENTY SURE IS SCHMUCK FOR ACTUALLY TRYING
TO KEEP HIS PROMISE NOT TO RAISE TAXES !!!!
P.S. IT's only to the end of this term!

Posted by: jimj at May 1, 2006 4:34 PM

Too bad, so sad. Use taxes to pay for something useful or dump the teams and their stadium whining on another city.

Posted by: .5 % metro tax at May 1, 2006 4:37 PM

Yeah,JiminStpaul,He's smart,so smart he's holding
this hearing today at 5:00 P.M.(so it won't be seen on CH.17)!

Posted by: jimj at May 1, 2006 4:47 PM

Oscar Goodman the former mob lawyer and now Democrat Mayor of Las Vegas will happily make the
TWINS "..A DEAL THEY CAN'T REFUSE!!" There won't
be any whining .5. Carl Pohlad will get to keep his 130 million dollars and get another 300 million for the franchise!!!

Posted by: jimj at May 1, 2006 5:00 PM

Guys! Calm down. We are past the point of changing anyone's minds here. In fact, at this point we are really just waiting to see how this all shakes out. Either some form of a stadium bill will pass or it won't.

Posted by: Shane at May 1, 2006 5:03 PM

I really really really dislike this Senate Taxes Committee right now.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 1, 2006 5:29 PM

New rule: ignore anonymous commenters with uncreative names. They just sidetrack any reasonable discussion. If they want to join, they can pick a silly, maybe slighly effeminate username and regularly post under that like the rest of us.

Also, why would the metro-wide sales tax break Pawlenty's pledge, but him approving separate Hennepin and Anoka County sales tax increases wouldn't? Does "metro-wide" no longer classify as a "local" tax increase? I just thought general funds and statewide taxes were off-limits.

Posted by: spycake at May 1, 2006 5:35 PM

The whole Senate Taxes Committee is gutless. They've looked at all of this since last week. They met this weekend because it wouldn't be available online or on televsion. They meet after 5 so it's not on television. Tomorrow's Pogemiller Gophers bill will include language with a memorabilia tax which would cost $12.9 million and take away naming rights and student fees. Michel's bill language will be considered to replace Pogemiller's language, but at $7.4 million it wouldn't include the land swap or something since the House passed their bill at $9.4 million.

They then voted 12-0 to include a referendum to the Twins House bill language that they are currently looking at. Tomorrow's discussions will include Kelley's amendment including money for a retractable roof and transportation.

Everyone on this committee is gutless. I don't normally listen to Dark Star, but last week he thought that Pogemiller would get both of these through quickly and without any major changes. I hope he rips Pogemiller and all associated with him a new one tonight. Man I'm ticked.

Posted by: ML at May 1, 2006 5:42 PM

I can't believe I actually got my hopes up this year, this is still the Minnesota Legislature we're talking about.

I no longer live in Minnesota but look forward to attending several games there a year in a new stadium, and hopefully moving back there someday.

I figure I would easily go to a couple week-end series per year. Figuring in tickets, concessions, motels, meals, trips to the mall, etc, I estimate I would spend $790/trip or $1,580 per year. Multiplied x 30 years that's $47,400.00, NOT counting inflation, that I would spend in Hennipen county in exchange for thier 3 cents on $20. Figuring in sales tax, entertainment tax, hotel tax, resteraunt taxes, etc. I figure $4,652.00 in taxes would be collected on that money. But I guess all of that has NO economic inpact on the state of Minnesota, and I guess I'm the ONLY one who would spend this money.

I'm basically to the point where I no longer care. Minnesota is rapdily becoming a place I no longer care to move back to, and will only visit to see my family and nothing else. Let them move to Las Vegas, it'll be alot more fun to go see them there. I give up on the Minnesota Legislature.

Posted by: David H. at May 1, 2006 5:57 PM

Pawlenty is indeed a bit of a schmuck. A huge schmuck in fact. As a state rep, he was anti-stadium. As a candidate for the state house, he ran as anti-stadium. He ran and runs against all taxes, not just state taxes (e.g. ripping on localities for raising property taxes). His ill-conceived taxes "pledge" has resulted in cuts to education and LGA, and set back transportation and other public investment, that will take years to undo. As governor, he said he wanted a local referendum, even after he flipped on the stadium question. He has been pushing referenda in general on all sorts of issues. And Hennepin is getting dumped on for 75% of the cost of infrastructure for this "statewide asset" because Pawlenty says no state money at all in the first place.

And now he wants to sign three stadium bills, including an override of the state law presumption (much less his past pledges) regarding the referendum, because it is an election year? Sure, some Dems are playing politics. But for anyone to say the Senate Dems are messing up an otherwise principled, non-political pro-stadium drive is being more than a bit silly. In fact, some of us think Dems posturing on stadiums is a good deal less damaging to the quality of life in Minnesota than the political posturing we've seen by the Governor and, by and large, the Republicans on the taxes issue, which has left Minnesota's core public infrastructure reeling. Yeah, people say we can do both. Well, Kelley says let's do both stadiums and transportation for a start. Sviggum says no. Pawlenty says no. So who exactly is playing politics and not leading? In that environment, promoting raising taxes (Twins, Vikings) and giving state money (Vikings, Gophers) to build $2.5 billion (total cost) in stadiums while "holding the line" on other genuine public needs does in fact say an awful lot about screwed up priorities among political leaders.

Perhas Pawlenty would fund the Gophers stadium with Pogemiller's memorabilia tax if we called it a "sports textile and bubble gum card impact fee."

The Twins bill only passed the House for one reason -- all the pro and con arguments of the rest of us rendered largely irrelevant. The bill passed because anyone not living in Hennepin is getting something for nothing. If constituents in outstate areas were getting taxed for this, a majority of outstate legislators would be opposed to it, the Republican leadership would be opposed to it, and the Governor would be opposed to it -- all the pretty pictures of the stadium and talk about the Twins leaving notwithstanding.

The vote in the Tax Committee tonight was good news, and hopefully not temporary, for those of us who oppose this $1 billion public subsidy for a pro sports stadium, built as a personal, publically-funded ATM machine for the 250th wealthiest person in a world of six and a half billion, in a profitable multi-billion dollar entertainment industry that is both a cartel and antitrust exempt. These things should not be built at any price to the public, which unfortunately seems to be the attitude of many who run tremulously from any public-minded amendment as a "deal-breaker" because the Twins say it is. If anyone believes the Twins and Pohlad at this point about anything, Sid Hartman and Carl Pohlad and their good friend Don Beaver -- fresh out of oceanfront property in Arizona -- have a major league team in the Triad of North Carolina they'd like to sell you.

The "referendum dealbreaker" has become a proxy for the stadium fight, precisely because the Twins and Opat are trying to get this deal past massive public opposition after Pawlenty played politics with inclusion of a statewide funding source. On the merits of it, there clearly should be no exemption. The referendum law is meaningless if the single largest, most controversial, substantially-opposed project subject to it is exempt. Local governmental units did not have local sales tax authority for many years; the state maintains authority over it, and granted the authority explicitly with a referendum requirement in place, and in fact the state revenue report on local use sales taxes advises that a local option sales tax should be approved by referendum before it is even submitted to the state legislature. The process at the County -- a backroom deal passed in eight days with no public hearings -- and in the House -- Hennepin County getting mugged and steamrolled by outstate legislators whose constituents won't pass the tax in any meaningful way -- counsels strongly against exempting this deal from the referendum presumption.

Stadium advocates don't like the presumptive referendum because it is likely the stadium tax would lose at the polls. That's, of course, precisely the point of opponents. If outstate legislators want to dump this on Hennepin County, it's not, as Sviggum says, the Twins who deserve an up or down vote. It is Hennepin County residents deserve an up-or-down vote.

I don't particularly like referenda, and am not a no taxes guy. But you don't have to be an opponent of representative government or applaud what "no taxes" pledges have done to the quality of life in this state to recognize that the referendum law on the books for local option sales tax increases should be observed in this case -- not only in this case but especially in this case given the process that got us here.

Commentators say these stadium bills will pass because opponents, while still the majority, are tired. Yeah, I'm tired. I am tired, with
citizens on the political left, right, and in the middle, of pro sports businesses like the Twins refusing to take no for an answer to their
unnecessary and unprincipled deals. I am tired, with citizens on the left, right, and in the middle, of legislators from coast-to-coast
thumbing their nose at public opposition to stadiums and building them even in the face of citizen outcry. I am tired, with citizens on the left, right, and in the middle, of massive corporate welfare at a time when other pressing needs go unmet. I am tired, with citizens on the the left, right, and in the middle, of prominent politicians changing stripes because their political aspirations change.

All that being said, I can understand why advocates don't want the referendum as a roadblock to their goal of a stadium. And I don't pretend the stadium debate is going to change anything about politics that we are all so tired of.

Shane, glad you are posting again. I learn more from this site about the stadium debate than all the newspaper and radio spots combined. That you should get in "trouble" for this is an absolute travesty.

Sorry for the long post. Wanted to do one post in one thread rather than several across different threads. Take care all.

Posted by: David at May 1, 2006 10:46 PM

The problem with long multi-angled posts is that they are hard to respond to. So I guess what I'll say is that anyone who has to to trot out "Don Beaver" as a case against a Twins Ballpark is someone who is a lost cause (as related to a Twins Ballpark).

Posted by: freealonzo at May 2, 2006 8:03 AM

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