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Published January 08, 2012, 12:34 PM

Group Wants Voters to Weigh in on Vikings Issues

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A group that opposes using tax dollars to fund a new Minnesota Vikings stadium isn't giving up its efforts to let voters weigh in on the issue.

For the second time, the No Stadium Tax Coalition is trying to organize a petition asking that a referendum be held before Ramsey County can agree to finance a stadium or subsidize a sports team, according to a St. Paul Pioneer Press report (http://bit.ly/wHvy1n ).

The group previously submitted a similar petition, but the office of County Attorney John Choi took issue with the wording. The office said this week that some of the prohibitions being sought weren't legally enforceable as written. So the coalition modified the language and is trying again.

The original petition would have asked voters to decide whether the county should be "prohibited from making expenditures, incurring debt, or entering into any agreement directly or indirectly" related to a stadium in Arden Hills.

However, the language of an initiative can't legally prohibit the county from expenditures or entering into agreements, assistant county attorney Harry McPeak told the coalition.

But removing that language would pare the proposed prohibition down to just "incurring debt," which would make the petition meaningless, coalition chair Ady Wickstrom said.

"It would allow the County to go to another entity to issue the debt, but it would still have to be paid for with Ramsey County Taxpayer's money," Wickstrom wrote to Choi on Friday.

Choi declined to comment on the implications of his office's decision, saying its role is only to weigh legal merits.

The coalition is now trying to circulate a new petition with slightly modified language. The new proposed amendment would require the county to get majority approval from taxpayers before it could "finance a sports facility to be used by a professional team, or to subsidize the operations of a professional sports team."

To get the proposed charter amendment on a ballot, the coalition needs signatures from 5 percent of the county's registered voters, or 14,875 signatures. The soonest the amendment could appear on a ballot would be for the November general election.

"That's really the trade-off. It would be a permanent solution, but it would be next November," coalition member Dave Brudevold said.

Costs to build a new stadium are likely to exceed $1 billion, with the Vikings so far signaling a willingness to pay more than $400 million. The state would pay about $300 million from an undetermined revenue source likely to include tax revenue from a gambling expansion, leaving the local host to come up with about $350 million.

Ramsey County has proposed building on a suburban site in Arden Hills. Minneapolis has discussed three potential sites: two near the Twins' Target Field, and the other at the current Metrodome site. The Vikings owners prefer the Ramsey County site, but have not ruled out staying in downtown Minneapolis.

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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