As debates over the proposed Vikings stadium continue in the Minnesota House of Representatives, Democratic Sen. John Marty, of Roseville, sent an open letter to his colleagues in the Senate to urge them to vote against what he calls a taxpayer subsidy for investors.
JUMP TO: Read the letter in full
In his rebuke of the current plan, Marty repeatedly compared the state's contribution to the stadium with a taxpayer subsidy totaling $77.30 for every single ticket in the 65,000-seat stadium over the next 30 years.
Marty continued to say that the contribution of $77 per ticket doesn't account for the property tax break the bill also affords the Vikings, worth an additional $25 million annually. Marty argues that equates to an additional public subsidy of $750 million over the next 30 years.
He also responded to a recent surge in calls to legislators over the issue, saying some lawmakers "seem to be fooled" by the many e-mails and phone calls which he attributes to lobbying efforts from the Vikings.
Marty said he remains skeptical of the lobbying effort, and he pointed to many Star Tribune polls that show continued opposition. He also referenced a historical resistance to using taxpayer funds on sports facilities.
According to Marty, the employment impact of constructing a stadium is not enough of an incentive to warrant the bill's passage. Instead, he suggests repairing and rebuilding the state's infrastructure as a means of creating those construction jobs.
The letter can be found in full below:
By this time, it is likely that most legislators know how they are voting on the Vikings stadium issue. However, prior to the floor votes, it is important that we recognize the amount of public money that we are expecting our constituents to pay to subsidize Mr. Wilf and his fellow investors.
As I pointed out previously, the Senate legislation that passed out of the Senate Committees last week is equivalent to a taxpayer subsidy of $77.30 for every ticket for each of the 65,000 seats, for every Vikings home game, for the next 30 years.
Some have questioned whether that is a fair way to measure the subsidy when the stadium will be used for high school sports and other events. But the reality is, as Ted Mondale stated, "The whole reason we're doing this is so the team can make money."
Using the numbers that were developed by Ramsey County for the Arden Hills proposal last fall, annual ticket revenues for the Vikings in the new stadium would total $90 million; the ticket revenues for all other events were estimated to total only $2 million/year.
You don't need a billion dollar stadium for monster trucks or high school sports. This legislation is here only because the Vikings want it. It truly is a $77 subsidy for every ticket, at every game, every year.
This $77/ticket subsidy doesn't count the property tax break that this legislation gives to the Vikings – the people who can afford to lease a suite at $250,000 for ten games are exempted from property taxes, while Minneapolis homeowners and renters are struggling with increasingly large property taxes. That property tax exemption is worth an additional $25 million/year, which is an additional $750 million public subsidy in over thirty years.
Some legislators seem to be fooled by the many phone calls and emails generated by the Vikings lobby, demanding that we fund the stadium. One Senate member claims his emails are running 100 to 1 in support.
Is the public's consistent, strong opposition to public funding of sports franchises weakening? When the Star Tribune (despite its financial conflict of interest related to land ownership near the stadium) has produced three polls in the last three years showing public opposition ranging from about 2 to 1 opposition to 3 to 1 opposition, don't trust the Vikings lobby "grassroots" campaign as reflecting public opinion.
Obviously, there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue. But when the state has borrowed so much money from schools, and many of our constituents are struggling to afford healthcare, it is likely that many people will chafe at the idea that we are spending $77 in public money to subsidize a highly profitable football team so that Mr. Wilf and the Vikings "can make money."