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Twins Might Get a New Stadium

According to this article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Hennepin County (which contains Minneapolis) and the Twins have agreed in principle to public funding for a new stadium:

With a new promise of $125 million from Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad in hand, Hennepin County will seek state permission to increase the local sales tax for a Warehouse District ballpark in downtown Minneapolis.

Under the terms of the plan to be unveiled at a Metrodome press conference Monday, the Twins and the county would build a $360 million, 42,000-seat open-air stadium. The site is near the confluence of Interstate Hwy. 394, the end of the Hiawatha Light Rail line and the proposed Northstar commuter rail in downtown Minneapolis.

The total cost of the ballpark project is projected to be $478 million, including bonding costs, site preparation and surrounding infrastructure, such as road and pedestrian improvements. No state money would be required.

The team, which has been seeking a new ballpark for a decade, would reap revenues from concessions, naming rights and luxury suites.

Why a local sales tax?

The use of the sales tax -- as opposed to user fees -- allows the county to issue tax-exempt bonds, which carry lower interest rates than taxable bonds. The sales tax also is a stable and predictable funding source that would grow along with the local economy.

In other words, this allows the county to have federal tax payers subsidize the stadium (in the last link, look in the second paragraph under the heading "Tax Exempt Bonds and
Economic Issues" for information on how such issuing tax-exempt bonds pushes public funding for projects onto federal tax payers). How much is the proposed tax?

The proposed 0.15 percent increase in the general sales tax is projected to raise $28 million a year and underwrite $353 million in county debt. County officials involved in drafting the proposal plan to issue 30-year bonds, but they predict the tax would raise enough money to pay off the bonds more quickly.

That isn't that much now, is it?

"This is a very workable plan because it does not require any state general fund money," (Phil adds: Senate Minority Leader Dean) Johnson (DFL***) said. "Three cents on $20 falls out of most people's pockets before breakfast."

The Twins have been trying to get public funding for years for a new ballpark, but the public has not been very generous. But 3 cents out of $20 isn't a big deal at all according to congressman Johnson. Taking this to the voters of Hennepin County will be like Shaq slam-dunking a basketball through a Little Tikes hoop, right?

One group that probably won't be voting on the tax -- which would amount to three cents on every $20 in purchases -- is Hennepin County residents: County and team officials said that requiring a public referendum would kill the deal.

Nice. Apparently voters think that 3 cents out of $20 is too much to give for a stadium. Maybe taxpayer money is more valuable to taxpayers than congressman Johnson believes. One thing is for sure - it is easier to spend other people's money than your own, especially when the other people have no say in the matter.

Here and here are two more articles on the new stadium. It's not quite a done deal though. The state still has to approve the tax increase.

*** In Minnesota, what is known as the Democratic Party in most states is called the Democratic-Farmer-Laborer Party.