NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. (AP) — Residents of a Minnesota county facing a local sales tax hike to help build a new, billion-dollar NFL stadium spoke out overwhelmingly Wednesday in favor of letting them vote on the plan.

Most of the dozens who testified at a public hearing of the Ramsey County Charter Commission held near the suburban stadium site opposed the stadium tax proposal. The obscure panel holds the power to throw a major obstacle into the Vikings’ stadium dreams.

The commission could call a public vote on the proposed half-cent county sales tax to pay for a portion of the $1 billion stadium, which stadium supporters fear voters would reject and threaten the Vikings’ continued presence in Minnesota.

But those demanding a public vote outnumbered stadium supporters by a more than two-to-one margin at the hearing, though supporters balanced it out some toward the meeting’s end when commissioners allowed non-Ramsey County residents to speak. Many tax foes said they were Vikings fans but don’t believe scarce county resources should subsidize a privately held team.

“Ramsey County is having trouble filling potholes and keeping their libraries open,” said Bob Thayer, a resident of St. Paul, the county seat. He said a sales tax seemed a particularly unfair way to fund a stadium: “The people who have the smallest chance of attending a Vikings game are going to give the biggest percent of their income to pay this tax,” he said.

Another public hearing is scheduled for October, and the charter commission is likely to decide whether to hold the vote at that meeting. As proposed, the amendment would ask voters: “Shall Ramsey County be prohibited from using any revenues, including those raised by taxes or bonding, to fund or assist in funding a Major League Baseball or National Football League sports team or stadium.”

The vote likely wouldn’t occur until November 2012. Stadium supporters say that delay — and the likelihood that tax-averse voters would defeat the tax — would together deal the proposal a fatal blow. The Vikings’ Metrodome lease runs out at the end of the current season, and repeated statements by team officials that that nearly 30-year-old venue is no longer sufficiently profitable have raised fears that team could be wooed to relocate to Los Angeles, currently in aggressive pursuit of a new NFL franchise.

“If we wait nine months from the end of the season to vote, we may not have a team to vote on,” said Diggz Garza, a St. Paul resident. “If there’s no team and they leave, then I guess we all lose.”

The proposed 0.5 percent sales tax hike in Ramsey County would raise the county’s proposed $350 million share of construction on the $1.1 billion stadium proposal, with the state contributing $300 million through a package of sales taxes on sports memorabilia and other, mostly game-related spending. The team would contribute the rest, an unspecified amount likely to exceed $400 million.

Supporters of the stadium project would ask the Republican-controlled Legislature would override the public vote provision, as they did when Hennepin County bypassed a referendum on its own sales tax increase to help build Target Field for the Minnesota Twins. Vikings officials, who did not speak at the public hearing, have said they simply want the same treatment as the Twins.

But any referendum exemption granted by the Legislature is likely to be challenged in court. In addition, influential state lawmakers including House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch recently came out in favor of a Ramsey County vote on any tax hike.

Numerous county residents said it was unfair that they should bear a bigger financial burden in order to build a stadium for a team that calls the whole state home.

“This team as far as I know is not the Ramsey County Vikings,” said Dick Houck, a Roseville resident. “It’s the Minnesota Vikings.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (16)
  1. SnowFire says:

    where’s the GOP? when their wealthy friends want tax moneys then they are not oppossing a tax increase? GOP needs to be at these meetings or calling a press conference to stop this tax increase as none of the GOP is going to vote in favor of this as they have all taken a oath against raising taxes and they are in power so it should never get passed.

  2. RainFire says:

    I love seeing Zygi Wilfs greedy paln get derailed..The wealthy are always use to getting their way at the expense of the working stiff,not this time!!

  3. Dean says:

    Maybe the so-called powers that be will realize that the people DO NOT WANT another publicly funded monstrosity. Let’s put this thing to rest. The Vikings can pay for their own stadium or JUST GO AWAY. I personally don’t want this thing in my neighborhood so I hope it never gets built here.

  4. Go Vikes - Really - Go says:

    Will the state and county put up 40% of the money needed for my new warehouse for my business? So why do the Vikings think the state and county should pay such a portion of their new playground?

    Most jobs created are one-time construction jobs. Where’s the guarantee that these folks will all be hired from MN?

    I’m no multimillionaire, but expected to provide my own business needs. So what’s the deal with the Vike’s owners? If there is going to be a tax increase in this county – let’s put it towards the education funding that our “leaders” stole from us once again. Educate our kids or pay for prim a-donna players’ new play space. Which makes more sense???

    1. Eric Manske says:

      does your business employ 50 millionaires that pay state taxes on those salaries? Will your warehouse pay county taxes on a piece of land that is 340 acres? People have to stop trying to liken this to their small businesses or homes. ITS NOT THE SAME.

    2. Husker Diva says:

      AMEN! It sounds like you are a small business. Additionally, Ramsey County shouldn’t be solely responsible from a tax standpoint. If this organization is so eager and confident that this is good for MN, put it to a vote.

  5. Bill says:

    We just LOVE watching them LOSE year after year!,Now they want a new stadium, We can see how that worked out for the Twins!

    1. Eric Manske says:

      3.1 million people showed up this year to watch the Twins. I would say that worked out pretty damn well.

  6. Jake says:

    If LA wants them, they can have them.

  7. red says:

    Goodbye Vikes! California can have Ya!

  8. KIller Teeth says:

    Sounds like the people have spoken.

    1. Eric Manske says:

      Yep, 8 people commented that they are opposed. sounds like ALL the people have weighed in on the issue.

  9. Husker Diva says:

    Doesn’t this state have bigger fiscal problems than keeping the Vikings?

  10. Go away Zygi and Vikings says:

    What is there to vote on? Isn’t it obvious that the majority of MN taxpayers do not want to pay for a new stadium? And if those 50 millionaires (who, incidentally, absolutely do not pay MN income taxes on all that income) want a new stadium, let them use their own wealth to pay for any kind of new stadium they want.

    Zygi, the players, and the Vikings die-hards are welcome to fund a new stadium ALL BY THEMSELVES. It’s about time Zygi reached into his own pocket instead of trying to get into mine; I’m tired of it.

    1. Eric Manske says:

      • Vikings players, visiting players and Vikings staff pay state income taxes of $12.5 million annually.

      Try again

  11. Tim says:

    Can someone post the article about how the vikings would end up in L.A. if they didn’t get a new stadium in MN?

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