Your antennae have to rise…

{Crossposted at SCSU Scholars.}

…whenever you hear about business people and government officials getting together to discuss money. So word yesterday that Zygi Wilf and Governor Pawlenty were planning to meet had me up with the tricorder right away.

The plans came out of a meeting between Wilf, Pawlenty and other staffers Thursday. Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said the sides will conduct a “financial workshop” to hash out details of Wilf’s $675 million proposal to build a stadium in Blaine. That meeting could happen within the next week.

According to the framework financing plan, Wilf and the NFL would contribute $280 million to the project. Anoka County would raise $280 million through a 0.75 percent countywide sales tax; the state would be asked to speed up $115 million in infrastructure projects and also bypass a law requiring local referendums for tax increases.

“We’re happy that the governor seems to want to get engaged in this,” Bagley said.

I have said before that the benefits of these things are dubious, and it’s doubly so when you don’t let voters even decide in a referendum whether they will be taxed to pay for it. (by the way, wasn’t it Pawlenty who said initiative & referendum was one of his four items he needed in the last term to pass the budget? hmmm.) The story carried a Detroit by-line, as Wilf was no doubt collecting evidence of how Detroit got Super Bowl XL as a sop for building $420 million Ford Field (of which the public paid $260 million, including about $40 in cost overruns.) Numerous sports economists, including me, are quoted in the St. Paul PioneerPress editorial today discouraging the governor from pursuing this initiative.

Regardless of who won Sunday’s Super Bowl, we hope everyone will remember the economics — not the score — of the game. Especially when Vikings owner Zygi Wilf comes calling again to ask the good taxpayers of Minnesota to pony up for a new stadium. Surely the Super Bowl and the economic riches it allegedly offers will be one of the baubles he’ll dangle in front of legislative committees and community forums. Don’t buy it.

(h/t for news piece: Gary Gross.)

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