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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Keep Your Eye On the Ball

While the press is focusing on Dean Johnson and the dueling Bachmann amendment rallies, the effort to pass the stadium boondoggle continues. A few weeks back the Sun Sailer interviewed Ron Abrams - who criticised the Twins Stadium Boondoggle. The thin skinned Mike Opat stadium boondoggle promoter had a cow and sent this letter to the editor:

To the editor:

I am writing in response to Rep. Ron Abrams' recent interview in the Sun-Sailor regarding the 2006 Legislative session. When asked about the Twins ballpark proposal, Rep. Abrams incorrectly suggested the tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by Hennepin County for the Twins ballpark may someday impact Hennepin County property taxes.

His assertion is absolutely not true. The Hennepin County Board has not and will not propose issuing General Obligation bonds backed by property taxes to build the ballpark. Hennepin County will also not pledge its property tax base as a credit enhancement for the ballpark revenue bonds.

As has been widely reported since April of 2005, the Hennepin County ballpark plan would be financed through tax-exempt revenue bonds that would be supported by a .15 percent county-wide general sales tax. We are proposing tax-exempt debt to keep interest costs as low as possible. In addition, we believe that sales tax receipts will grow over time and allow us to pay off the debt early and end the tax early. In the Denver area, a .1 percent general sales tax was used to finance Coors Field and the 20-year bonds were retired in less than 10 years.

The Hennepin County Board takes its role as a public steward seriously, and we have managed well. Hennepin County is one of only 19 counties, out of 3,100 nation-wide, that maintains a triple-A credit rating from all three major rating agencies. Hennepin County has held its triple-A rating for 30 straight years. It's a record that the State of Minnesota can't touch. I hope residents keep this context in mind as they consider supporting the County's ballpark financing plan.

While Rep. Abrams has every right to oppose public participation in a new Twins ballpark, it would be more productive if he spent his time selling the merits of his position, rather than spreading misinformation on what is actually being proposed. The public is entitled to an honest debate on this important issue.

Mike Opat

About a month ago, Shane Nakeru posted some interesting speculation about where the votes are on the ways and means committee.

He's gotten some recognition by stadium boosters. He's got a list of legislators that are in favor of increasing Hennepin County Sales taxes to support the twins stadium without a referendum.

According to this DFL Bachmann amendment supporter Bev Scalze is supporting the stadium boondoggle.

This is very useful information put forward by a stadium supporter. I think I'll need to create a similar list - except the illustration for the stadium supporter will be a pork chop.

Nakeru is suggesting that opponents of public financing of stadiums are unAmerican. That seems like overblown rhetoric.