Stadium bill to Senate

Megan Kadrmas

The stalemate over the proposed on-campus Gophers football stadium in the state Senate Taxes Committee broke Wednesday with a 7-5 passage of the measure.

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, who previously voted with committee Republicans against the bill, rejoined his party to break the 6-6 deadlock.

The chief author of the approved stadium bill is Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, who is also chairman of the committee.

“We just get to a certain point that with Larry Pogemiller there’s no negotiating anymore,” said committee member Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove.

University officials such as Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter and Athletics Director Joel Maturi have traveled back and forth from the Capitol since Thursday for committee hearings.

“I’m trying to accept and understand from those who live this life, whether it be legislators or those who work for the University who are more involved at the Capitol, that this is part of the process,” Maturi said.

Passage by the Taxes Committee marks the end of the committee process for the bill. The full Senate will hear the stadium plans sometime next week. Pfutzenreuter predicted the Senate will take the bill Monday.

Differences between the bill that came out of the Senate committee process and the one that passed the House last month are significant.

The bill by author Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, which passed the House 103-30, costs the state $9.4 million a year for 25 years. Other portions of the project are paid for through a $35 million naming-rights contract with TCF Bank, student fees and the transfer of almost 3,000 acres of UMore Park near Rosemount from the University to the state.

The Senate version bars TCF Bank from naming rights and drops the UMore Park deal.

“I’m trying to pick out the parts of the bill that I recognize and there aren’t many,” Michel said.

Under Pogemiller’s bill, the money lost from these sources would be covered by the state. This would increase the state’s commitment for the $248 million project to $12.9 million a year for 25 years.

The extra expense for the state would be covered by a statewide 13 percent wholesale tax for sports memorabilia and apparel.

Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, is concerned about the governor’s reception of the bill if it passes the Senate. Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a promise during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign to create no new taxes.

“It’s dead on arrival (at the governor’s office). I’ll tell you, (Pogemiller’s bill) on the floor will have major problems,” Day said after observing the vote.

Although the committee passed the bill, some members still were concerned with parts of the measure after the meeting.

“(Pogemiller) doesn’t seem to have any qualms in raising 13 percent sales tax on some products in Minnesota to pay for the next public item,” Limmer said.

University officials remain optimistic a stadium will be approved before session ends May 22, Maturi said.

“I’m excited that it’s gone

to the next step, and I’m hopeful that we pass a bill to bring Gopher football back to campus.”