For years, Minnesota's top executive has shown no interest in using public money to subsidize a football stadium to assure the Vikings' long-term future in the state. In a radio interview Wednesday, however, the governor came as close as he ever has to supporting the idea of using funds to help finance a stadium.
During his weekly radio address, Pawlenty said the state could use proceeds from a new lottery game to help fund a Vikings stadium, a game that would generate an estimated $12 million annually. Viking Update has mentioned in the past that, given the current salary cap in the NFL, state income tax on player salaries alone is between $15 million and $20 million a year, money that would be lost if the team was to relocate. That figure doesn't take into account the state taxes made off the salaries of the employees that work directly with the organization and others that are contract employees with the team.
The inclusion in a potential remedy for the current stadium gridlock comes as something of a surprise, since Pawlenty has been a staunch opponent of state funding for a stadium. The state has been able to skate by on the other two stadiums that have been constructed over the last couple of years. The University of Minnesota conducted a fundraising effort to help pay for its stadium and Hennepin County stepped in to impose a sales tax increase to pay for the new Twins stadium.
Pawlenty has been against proposals that would have the state construct a casino that would use profits to funds things like a Vikings stadium. Pawlenty said he also has looked at other potential funding sources, including tax increment financing. It is unclear how the new proposal will be received. With the State of Minnesota projecting a $1.2 billion shortfall this year, it's hard to imagine too many legislators will get Vikings fever, but it is encouraging to see that, after years of seemingly being on opposite sides of the fence, the governor appears willing to work with the Vikings on getting a stadium deal done at some point.