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Monday, June 05, 2006

Stadium Boondoggle Hurts Kelley

The Pioneer Press has a profile on Steve Kelley:

Kelley's sponsorship of the Twins stadium bill in the state Senate this year elevated his profile and gave him a platform for talking about enhanced mass-transit funding, a goal most of the delegates probably share.

But his support for the stripped-down version of the Twins bill that became law, a plan that does not include transit money and does not give Hennepin County residents a vote on the sales tax that will pay for the ballpark, is certain to cost Kelley votes with convention delegates.

"That's going to be a negative," said Sen. John Hottinger, a Democrat from St. Peter who is a Kelley fan.


On the stadium issue, Kelley said he assumed leadership among Senate Democrats in the controversy this year because he saw the Twins and Vikings as important to Minnesota's quality of life.

"Sixty percent of my constituents wanted me to make sure the teams stayed in town," Kelley said. "And 60 percent didn't want to pay anything to do it. It was an attractive and complex problem to work on."

Kelley began the legislative session as sponsor of the bill that called for a Hennepin County sales tax to pay most of the cost of an outdoor ballpark.

But three weeks before the end of the session, Kelley and Senate Democrats made massive changes in the funding scheme.

They combined separate Twins and Vikings legislation into a single bill, added a retractable roof for the Twins and proposed financing the whole thing with a 0.5 percent metro sales tax that would have quickly paid off both stadiums and produced $12 billion over 30 years for mass transit. And the bill would have given metro residents a vote on the tax.

When the legislation came back to the Senate after a conference committee, though, the Vikings stadium was mostly gone from the bill, the Twins' roof was gone, the metro tax and transit funding were gone, and the referendum was gone.

Some senators complained that the part of the bill they liked — the transit money — or the part that made them willing to accept the legislation — the referendum — had disappeared too quickly and too completely.

But Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, a supporter of the transit money, praised Kelley's leadership on the issue, even though it may hurt him at the convention this week.

"The fact he was willing to take on the Twins bill was a gutsy thing to do," Pappas said.

This shows his priorities. Putting the transit in the bill was just to get the democratic votes to get the bill past the Senate, so it would go to a conference committee which took the house version.