Sviggum and Pawlenty Play Both Ways on Stadium Boondoggle
Pawlenty should remember that one quarter of the states population lives in Hennepin County. From the Pioneer Press:
Pawlenty on Tuesday reiterated a position he staked out previously: He would prefer Hennepin County voters get the opportunity to accept or reject a ballpark sales tax in a referendum, but he will not insist on it.
"It's not a deal-breaker if the Legislature puts the bill on my desk without it," he said of a ballot issue.
Ballpark supporters, however, question whether Pawlenty will lobby hard for passage. They believe he doesn't want to be far out front on the issue, because that could place him at risk with his Republican base of tax opponents and with independent voters who find ethical problems with subsidizing pro sports.
The referendum is undeniably the sticking point for passage of the bill. The Twins and the Hennepin County Board — the team's partner in the $508-million project — seek to skirt a ballot issue on the 0.15 percent county sales tax (3 cents on a $20 purchase) that would pay for three-quarters of the stadium in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis.
State law calls for a referendum on new local sales, but it allows exclusions, which have been obtained in the past by St. Paul and Minneapolis for city projects. Ballpark supporters want the exclusion because they contend a ballot issue would create delays and greater expense, while opponents say supporters' real fear is that residents would vote it down.
Second, Kahn reports that House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, has 41 Republican votes in favor of a stadium, but he wants the balance of the required 68 votes for passage to come from Democrats. Mr. Speaker, if a Twins stadium is good for Minnesota, urge every Republican to vote for it. If it’s not good for Minnesota urge every Republican to oppose it. You and your fellow Republicans were elected to do what's best for the state, not dance an election-year two-step with the DFL.
Precinct caucus resolutions opposing this boondoggle are going to be important in Swing Districts in both parties. Rural Legislators who are promoting sticking it to Hennepin County taxpayers - as Rep. Brad Finstad (R) is, should get some mail and calls. Hennepin County taxpayers might also take a look for proposed pork projects in Finstad's district, and write their senator or rep to oppose that project.