By Pat Kessler

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota’s budget deficit is not as bad as the last estimate.

New figures show the deficit has shrunk to $627 million dollars, and that’s down more than 40 percent from the December estimate, which showed a $1.1 billion deficit.

Lawmakers will now have fewer than three months to figure out how to fix it.

Hidden in the budget news was the fact the state is going to need to find a new way to pay for the Vikings stadium.

Lawmakers bet on electronic pull-tabs — and so far they lost badly.

State finance officials and Gov. Mark Dayton are now cutting in half the amount of money they expect to take in to pay for the Vikings stadium — the millions in electronic pull-tabs revenue just isn’t there.

“I think everybody made their best attempt to do it and get it right,” Dayton said. “Now we’ve got to figure out how to correct that so we can make up that difference.”

State officials predicted 900 pull-tab machines by now, but there are only 130.

They predicted $46 million dollars in revenue by 2015 and now expect only $23 million.

Republican Senator Sean Nienow opposed the stadium, and warned about putting too much faith in electronic pull tabs.

And he says everyone knew the risk.

“I was trying to slow this thing down to tell people you need to fix the funding mechanism, because it’s not going to show up,” he said. “And when the money doesn’t show up we are obligated to pay for this.”

But the charitable group administering the pull-tab machines and getting some of the proceeds says it’s too early to throw in the cards.

They say the billion-dollar operation just needs more time to get in the game.

“Are we going to be able to achieve what is asked of us over time? We believe that opportunity is there,” Allen Lund of Allied Charities.


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