Budget negotiations stall, stadium fund soars

It was a bad news-good news day at the Minnesota State Capitol on Wednesday. The bad news there was no discernible progress in negotiations on $8 billion in spending and tax relief. The good news is the reserve fund used to pay off bonds financing U.S. Bank Stadium continues to build a huge surplus.

 On the budget, a breakdown in negotiations between House and Senate conference committee leaders on a $450 million public safety funding package is symptomatic of a larger bog down of talks between House and Senate negotiators. Republican Senator Warren Limmer and other Republicans on the public safety conference committee didn’t even show up for a meeting with DFL House negotiators.

“Frankly I don’t know why you don’t show up to a room where someone is willing to meet you,” said Rep. Carlos Mariani, the DFL public safety co-chair. “It’s a new one on me. Again, tough to do counteroffers and build things when you’re not in the room.”

Earlier, Limmer sent out a statement saying DFLers hadn’t made a serious counteroffer to a Senate offer. “Without a serious and complete offer from the House, we will continue to wait for the DFL to take public safety seriously as a priority this session,” Limmer said in a statement.

Meanwhile, better news out of the Senate Finance Committee which passed a bill that could save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and pay off US Bank Stadium many years early. That’s because a surplus in the reserve fund that pays the annual debt service of about $30 million dollars will reach $581 million by 2025.

“This bill probably would have been the first bill this year if we hadn’t had the surplus because you know there would have been eyes and targets on that money to be used for other purposes besides the stadium,” said Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, an author of the original stadium bill.

Even a staunch stadium opponent was encouraged about these developments.

“I’m not going to go into the stadium issues ten years later, but yeah, I was not pleased with the deal,” said Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville. “I don’t think taxpayers should be funding these, but having said that I’m glad that the revenue is coming in faster than expected and that we can do some things to save taxpayers money.”