On Tuesday, Minnesota voters passed a ballot initiative amending the Minnesota Constitution to include a provision whereby three-eighths of a cent will be imposed on in-state transactions subject to the Minnesota sales tax. The amendment was sold as a model for ensuring Minnesotans clean drinking water, sustainable wildlife, and a legacy of hunting and fishing for generations to come. And it offered a provision that allowed a portion of the revenue generated from the tax to be invested in Minnesota's "cultural heritage."
While far too little attention was paid to the ramifications of using a state constitution to secure tax revenue--the consequences of which residents of California now are having to come to terms with after several years of using their constitution in similar, though far broader measure--virtually no attention, if any, has been given to the language of the Amendment and what that language portends for a possible Vikings' stadium funded by taxpayer dollars.
As a word of caution, if you are among the growing numbers of sports fans who look to the numerous privately funded sports stadiums around the United States and abroad as a model for building new stadiums, stop reading here lest you risk having your head explode. Others should giddily read on.
As noted, the new Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution allows use of a portion of the revenue raised under the Amendment to fund things associated with Minnesota's "cultural heritage." Nowhere in the Amendment is "cultural heritage" defined, however, leaving for state legislators the authority to define the term.
Under the Amendment, Minnesota legislators will be permitted to fund a corn dog stand on Nicollet Mall, an ice-sculpture contest in Baudette, a lutefisk plant in Sleepy Eye, or a wild rice quilting club in Detroit Lakes, if they so choose. And if the revenue generated from the newest Minnesota Amendment can be used to fund those enterprises, it surely can be used to fund the construction of a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings with the simple logic, used by other professional sports teams to keep team names and paraphernalia in state when a team has bolted for greener pastures, that the local teams has become part of the cultural fabric of the state.
The Vikings' most recent stadium proposal calls for the construction of a $1 billion stadium, with $750 million in public contributions. The tax generated under the new Minnesota Amendment is expected to be nearly $300 million per year. Of that amount, 19.75% will be available to spend on "arts and cultural heritage" projects--approximately $60 million per year. That's more than enough to fund even the Vikings' grandiose stadium plan. A fact that, along with the dearth of other public revenue streams for such an undertaking, makes the revenue generated from the new Amendment a highly likely source for stadium funding.
If you're a "build a stadium without reserve" fan, this Amendment looks like the one solid lead for gaining public funding for a new Vikings' stadium in the next few years. If you prefer legislative formalities for debating public expenditures on such ventures, well, you were warned to stop reading long ago.
Up Next: Must Win Time for Vikings.