The carrot of property tax relief and the stick of being stuck forever with Target Center debt didn't seem to sway members of the Minneapolis City Council on Thursday, when Mayor RT Rybak presented his modified financing plans for a Vikings stadium.
"Let’s play offense and not play defense," Rybak implored councilmembers. "It's going to be pretty tough to pass a budget next year without some property tax relief."
But several councilmembers, including Southwest's Elizabeth Glidden and Betsy Hodges, pointedly worried that the current plan could leave the city responsible for the Target Center and the stadium if the economy goes sour. Glidden, Hodges, and other opponents said they want a citywide referendum on the financing plan per the city charter, a plan which Rybak and Council President Barb Johnson resisted.
"Looking across the street at Occupy Minnesota and thinking about what's going on in our country right now, some of the discussions that are happening relative to government—can we trust them or not?—I cannot countenance going around that referendum," councilmember Sandy Colvin Roy said.
According to the Star-Tribune, Colvin Roy's stance means seven councilmembers out of 13 oppose the stadium plan without a referendum, while key state legislators also support a referendum.
According to the plan, the city would redirect existing sales, downtown meals, and lodging taxes to generate $300 million to invest in the stadium, the Minneapolis Convention Center, and the Target Center. The Target Center—whose 1995 purchase Councilmember Gary Schiff called "the worst decision ever made by this body"—currently sucks up $5 million per year in city money to pay off debt from the purchase, and would be transferred to a state-run "Stadium Authority" under the Rybak plan. The state, Rybak and his supporters argue, should help pay for the Center and its much-needed renovations because of the economic boost it offers to all of Minnesota.
Rybak said he believed his and Johnson's plan is the only shot the city has at getting rid of that millstone around its neck. The money that the city uses to pay for the Target Center would be poured back into the city budget to keep property taxes from rising.