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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The two state lawmakers most important to the Minnesota Vikings’ push for a new stadium don’t live anywhere near the Twin Cities, and neither are even huge fans of the NFL team.
Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont and Rep. Morrie Lanning of Moorhead are the chief sponsors of a bill to use partial public financing for a stadium to replace the Metrodome, where the roof collapsed under heavy snow from the December 2010 blizzard.
Rosen and Lanning are savvy veterans at the Capitol who are well-respected both by their fellow Republicans and by Democrats. Their experience and reputations will come in handy as they try to convince skeptical legislators of both parties to support raising taxes for a private enterprise even as the Legislature cuts state spending elsewhere.
“They’re the most important people in this whole thing right now at the Capitol,” Ted Mondale, a former Democratic state senator and Gov. Mark Dayton’s point man on the stadium push, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “They’re well-respected in their caucuses, they’re experienced and they know how to get things done.”
Lanning and Rosen introduced matching House and Senate bills last week. They proposed a menu of state sales taxes on sports memorabilia, stadium luxury seats and digital video recorders, as well as naming rights, a lotto game and an income tax surcharge on professional football players to raise a state share of $300 million toward a stadium estimated to cost up to $900 million.
The bills do not identify a site for the new stadium, which Rosen and Lanning have left to the Vikings to line up with a local government partner. That leaves Rosen and Lanning with about a month left in the regular legislative session to line up enough support for a stadium bill that leaves important questions unanswered.
Despite their pivotal roles, neither Rosen nor Lanning have nurtured a high profile on the stadium issue. Neither has yet held a single news conference on the matter, though they’re well aware of a strong media appetite for the tiniest developments.
In part, that’s because both have other important issues on their plates at the Capitol.
Lanning, 66, is chairman of the House State Government Finance Committee where he assembled a two-year budget proposal that reduce the number of state government workers by 15 percent by 2015 and makes other big reductions to state agency spending.
Lanning served as mayor of Moorhead for 22 years prior to joining the Legislature, and is a former dean of students at Concordia College in Moorhead. He is soft-spoken, even subdued, but colleagues said that’s one of his strengths in a Capitol full of big personalities.
“If all the Republicans were like him, I think we’d all get along a lot better,” said Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who works with Lanning on the State Government Committee. “He likes to do things that are right and fair.”
Lanning said he believes failure to reach a stadium solution could mean Minnesota losing the Vikings.
“I don’t believe the Wilf family will move the team, but they could sell it and the new owner could move,” Lanning said.
“I wish there were a better time to consider this,” he added, noting that the team’s Metrodome lease ends after the upcoming season makes it more urgent.
Rosen, 53, said she is similarly motivated by the belief that losing the Vikings would be a major economic blow to Minnesota.
“It’s got nothing to do with me being a fan,” Rosen said. “I mean, I love football, but I was born and raised a Bronco girl.”
The Denver native and former competitive swimmer worked as an agronomist before deciding to stay home with her three children.
Both Rosen and Lanning were elected to the Legislature in 2002. Both were previously important players in negotiations over the bill that allowed the Minnesota Twins’ new Target Field to be financed with a combination of team, local and state dollars that now appears to be a model for the Vikings bill.
“Both of them are capable of building bipartisan support, and that’s what you need in a deal like this,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, who also worked on the Twins bill. “But I have a hard time seeing a path to get this done, and I don’t envy them.”
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