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Murdock, Hoffman: No general funds for new stadium

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Local legislators are waiting to hear specifics regarding the governor's plan to keep the Vikings in Minnesota before sticking to a straight stance on the issue.

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And while the specifics of any agreements have not been set in stone, Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, and Rep. Mark Murdock, R-Ottertail, say they're against the use of general funds to build a new stadium.

"I'm not going to support anything that has any general fund tax payer dollars - no way," Murdock said.

Hoffman echoed that sentiment.

"I for sure would not support any general fund spending, at all," she said.

Governor Mark Dayton has said he hoped to have a Vikings stadium proposal on the table by Nov. 7, with a special session within weeks. Owners of the Vikings have threatened to leave the state if a new stadium deal isn't met.

Hoffman said, number one, she has not seen any formal plans regarding the stadium.

Talks surrounding the use of gambling money from a 'racino' and a Block E downtown Minneapolis casino project trouble Hoffman, as she said the social costs of doing so are greater than the economic benefit.

"I have serious concerns about expanding gambling in Minnesota," she said.

Murdock said he hasn't completely ruled out the idea behind the Block E Casino and 'racino' funding, but admits he has concerns.

"I'm coming off my hard stance, but I'm concerned about the welfare of Minnesotans," he said.

He questions whether funding from gambling could actually hurt the economy, as it could mean more people lose their paychecks, rather than spend in more economically stimulating ways

"I worry about that," he said.

Murdock didn't completely shut down the idea of funding coming from gambling, though. He said renegotiating agreements with Native American Tribes regarding how much money their casinos contribute to the state coffers is a conversation that needs to take place. Essentially, he said agreements made in the 1980s could be revisited.

"The tribes need to come to the table, throw into the state money coffers -- then you wouldn't have to expand gambling," he said.

He also favors the idea of a dedicated lottery ticket, specifically for the generation of funds for the Vikings - a plan that came up quite a bit last year.

The timing of a special session, which is not concrete but slated for some point in November, is also something Hoffman is questioning. The economic forecast for the state will be released at the beginning of December.

Discussing the spending of state funds without knowing what the forecast is for the next year is not something Hoffman agrees with, especially in a fragile economy.

That, paired with the timing that could come in the midst of Thanksgiving weekend, has her worried that it's not exactly the best time to call a special session, as residents aren't paying as much attention to the Capitol.

Murdock isn't crazy about the timing either. Along with Hoffman, he's concerned that the cost of a special session -- $45,000 a day-- is too large for the governor to warrant one. He said the urgency factor is being pushed too hard.

"I think this could be settled in a regular session," he said.

Hoffman said she's watched the Vikings since she was young, and considers herself a Vikings fan. But, she said, the state has seen the loss of other businesses because of a poor business growth economy in the state - and that's a concern as well.

"I'm one of those people who thinks Minnesota needs a stable economic plan that would treat all businesses the same," she said.

Hoffman references the loss of business through Lockheed Martin, Hershey's, Ford, TCF Bank and 3M as unfortunate losses for the state, too.

"That concerns me," she said. "Those are year-round good paying jobs leaving the state."

Hoffman said she would like to see an economic study that shows building a stadium actually helps the economic growth of the state. Up until now, she hasn't seen that presented to her.

"I'm not against the Vikings whatsoever," she said. "The state government is spending way too much money."

Murdock referenced the stadium as a $28-30 million a year revenue business. But he's not willing to throw taxpayer money behind it.

Like Hoffman, he grew up watching the Vikings and considers himself a fan.

"They're a part of Minnesota history, and I'd hate to see them go," he said.

If they do stay, Murdock said he favors a new stadium downtown, rather than in Arden Hills.

As the vice chair of the transportation committee, he said he knows MnDOT doesn't have the funds to repair roads out to the Ramsey County site -- and he said plenty of work would need to be done.

Murdock said he'd like to see Minnesota look at what other states have done. To help support a new Cardinals stadium in Phoenix, the state added a surcharge for rental cars. Doing that in Minnesota, out of the St. Paul-Minneapolis airport, could work, he said.

Hoffman said, before she goes down for a special session, she'd like to have as much public input as possible. A survey she sent out last winter showed around 80 percent of her constituents - both Republicans and Democrats - were against public funding of the stadium. That's consistent with what her email inbox says every day.

"I have to represent the people who are here and I'm finding this isn't a Republican or Democrat thing - it's just across the board - it's more spending, more spending, more spending," she said. "If people don't have jobs, they're not going to a Vikings game."

Murdock said he's also heard a mixed bag from constituents.

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