Thursday, March 28, 2013

Miscalculatin' Dayton: Part Deux

Back in November, Governor Mark Dayton pretty much admitted his ignorance regarding a certain aspect of a bill to finance the nearly $1 billion Vikings stadium. Dayton took umbrage with the idea that the Vikings organization was going to use revenue from personal seat licenses (a one-time fee for the more prime season tickets) to fund a portion of their $477 million obligation towards the stadium. Naturally, the Vikings brushed aside that concern since Dayton signed the bill into law. The fact the Governor didn't make a concerted effort to fully understand the so-called complexities of the legislation was his own fault.

Fast forward to this week where Dayton once again implied he was duped on the reliability of the revenue projections from electronic pulltabs. Said revenue was expected cover the state's share of the stadium cost, which is approximately $350 million.

“There should have been more transparency in this part of the process,” said Katharine Tinucci, a Dayton spokeswoman. The governor, she said, “was not aware of the particulars of where the information was coming from.”

That statement comes a day after a Star Tribune article disclosed that state gambling regulators relied on projections from the pulltab companies that potentially stand to gain the most from the state’s expansion into electronic gambling.

Legislators relied on those numbers in the final weeks of a rancorous and high-stakes stadium battle, in which Dayton staked enormous political capital on closing the deal and keeping the Vikings in Minnesota. Gambling regulators stressed to legislators and state officials that electronic gambling revenue would provide ample funding for the new stadium and boost the take for local charities that run the games.

But after nearly a year, only about 200 of the 2,500 projected electronic gambling sites have come online, causing revenue to be dramatically short of expectations. Some have said the state may need to look at another source of money to cover the state’s $350 million share of the nearly $1 billion stadium.

Administration officials initially projected that the games would yield $35 million in fresh tax revenue by the end of 2013. That estimate has since plummeted to just $1.7 million for the year.

On Wednesday evening, WCCO-TV performed a "reality check" on the Governor's claim that no one knew how wildly inflated the revenue projections were concerning the e-pull tab proceeds.

“If (the legislature) misunderstood the situation, they have no one to blame but themselves,” Dayton said. “And I have no one to blame but myself.”

But many lawmakers did have access to different information.

An in-depth report, circulated by supporters of casino gambling, described electronic pull tab devices as “unproven technology in terms of its market potential.”

The report, titled “Minnesota Charitable Gaming: Proposal for Funding Vikings Stadium“, said: “There is no precedent in charitable gaming for such a dramatic increase [in revenue], and all trends have for the past 20 years been in the opposite direction.”

The report concludes: “Electronic pull tabs have not been implemented anywhere in the United States, so there is no basis to the revenue forecast."

The bottom line is the Republicans in the legislature could have killed this thing instantly since they had a majority in both the House and Senate last year. So to say they all have their hands clean in this thing would be disingenuous. That said, the mere fact the Republicans had the ability to thwart the stadium legislation left them vilified by certain members of the sports media as well as shouted down at the Capitol by a couple hundred loud, obnoxious, bloated Vikings rubes donning purple face paint and Helga braids. So if the GOP did indeed cave because of those external factors, then those who got voted out in November deserved their fate.

However, when the stadium bill finally passed, it was Governor Dayton who was lauded by the local media as showing grand leadership in this whole process. So if Dayton was considered the hero for convincing a large contingent of DFL legislators to sign on to this bill, then he is justifiably receiving criticism for yet another admission of woeful ignorance.


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