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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sviggum: Taxation without Referendum Fine in Hennepin County, Referendum Required Outstate

What a weasle.....

Sviggum backs new DECC arena
POLITICS: The Minnesota House speaker says if Duluth can pass a referendum to raise money for half the project, other lawmakers, including Gov. Tim Pawlenty, will add their support.

Minnesota House Speaker Steve Sviggum on Friday pledged support for a new hockey arena at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

Sviggum, who leads the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, said that other lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty probably will add their support -- if city voters approve a nonbinding referendum Feb. 28 to add another 0.75 percent to the city's restaurant food and beverage tax.

"I will support the DECC upfront, wholeheartedly, as speaker," Sviggum said. "But the local folks have to be there, too, if it's going to be in the final bill. That's a given."

The city wants the state to pay for $33.5 million of the $67 million arena, which would be home to UMD hockey and would host concerts and conventions. The local sales tax increase would cover the other half.

The project will need the support of the governor, House and Senate to be included in the final state construction bonding legislation.

Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said local financial commitments and referendums will be crucial if major convention center/arena projects are approved by the state for Bemidji and Marshall, and that a Hennepin County referendum probably will be required before lawmakers approve a new Twins stadium for Minneapolis.

Why are referendums "probably" required for Hennepin County, and "crucial" for these greater Minnesota projects".

But Sviggum noted that with major Twin Cities stadiums on the agenda, there's support for large projects outside the metro area.

So does that mean that Sviggum supports statewide funding/financing for the Twins ballpark? What bothers me is greater Minnesota legislators voting to increase MY taxes without a referendum to pay for a Twins stadium. If the Twins stadium is a statewide asset and quality of life, then let the cost be borne statewide.

Sviggum also said there appears to be strong support for state construction money for a new school of business at UMD and for an upgraded polar bear exhibit at the Lake Superior Zoo.

"Speaker Sviggum has always been a good friend to me and to Duluth. His support on this is instrumental," Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson said Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, agreed Friday that Duluth's support to pay half of the arena project would improve its chances of being approved. Johnson said he was just starting to review individual projects and hadn't formed an opinion on the Duluth arena.

Johnson said the Senate's version of the bonding bill could go as high as $965 million and still stay below the guideline of spending only 3 percent of the state budget on debt service.

Passing a state construction bonding bill will be the top priority of the 2006 Legislature, which will meet for about 10 weeks starting March 1.

Sviggum said he agrees with Pawlenty that a roughly $900 million construction package is likely, but only if the state has enough money in its budget to make the annual payments on that debt. The state borrows money for big projects by selling bonds paid back over many years.

Sviggum also said Friday that he would support legislative action to allow Duluth to establish an irrevocable trust fund that would be stocked by various city funds to pay for the city's skyrocketing costs for retired employee health-care benefits.

But Sviggum said the state will not bail out Duluth, the Minneapolis school district nor any other municipality that is facing financial crisis because of health-care commitments for current and future retirees.

"These were city decisions that got them there. It will have to be a city solution," Sviggum said. "But if it's just authorization to set up a fund, that probably wouldn't be a problem."

Bergson said city officials already are lobbying for legislation to set up the trust.

"It's been a very positive reaction," Bergson said. "We are leading the way on this, A lot of other cities and school districts are going to need to do this down the line."

Is Sviggum going to support the Carlson School expansion - and other University of Minnesota bonding packages in the Twin Cities?

What would a session be without social issues?

Sviggum said Republicans will continue to push in 2006 for a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages and will work to tighten laws to battle illegal immigration, which he said is a statewide problem. Sviggum said his caucus also will push for a constitutional amendment to dedicate 3/16th of one cent of the state's sales tax to conservation and natural resource funding.

Constitutional amendments must be approved by voters in November. All 201 state lawmakers, the governor, constitutional officers, members of Congress and one U.S. senator will be on the ballot this year.

Well the Bachmann amendment will be dead in the Senate. I hear that DFLers in Bev Scalze's district are unhappy with her vote in favor of the Bachmann amendment. Scalze had received Outfront endorsement in 2004. Apparently Scalze had told people she would vote against the legislation. Rep. Karen Clark had told me that Scalze had always told people that she supported the Bachmann amendment. A Scalze constituent told me point blank that Karen Clark was wrong on this point. I've heard similar stories about Denise Dieterich. This advice to "vote your district" came from others besides minority leader Matt Entenza. According to one of the DFL freshman legislators who voted NO on the Bachmann amendment, Ann Lenczewski told freshman DFLers that they should vote their district unless they wanted to see billboards that had the two gay men kissing with the slogan "Want Gay Marriage? Vote Democratic" in their district. Ofcourse this was nonsense. The anti-gay Al Junhke voted in favor of the Bachmann amendment and still got the "Want Gay Marriage? Vote Democratic" billboards in his district. Ann Lenczewski should be reminded that passing the amendment will not ban gay men from kissing in public.