The key question among the group gathered at Canterbury Park yesterday for a fundraising event for the House Republican Caucus regarding was whether or not a special session of the legislature would occur before the next regular session (January 24, 2012). The only way the government can meet before the next regular session is if the governor calls them into session to debate a specific issue. In this case the issue would be funding for a new stadium for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.
Why would that matter to the horsemen and legislators gathered at Canterbury? One of the funding mechanisms suggested has been the placement of slot machines at Canterbury Park and Running Aces Harness Park. Though the idea of a “racino” is not a new one, it does seem as if this past year more serious consideration has been given to the idea as the state slides deeper and deeper into debt.
In an interesting bit of news, the budget projections, set to be released later today, appear to show that the state’s deficit has NOT increased but rather this biennium will actually show a surplus of over $800 million. Since this news was completely unexpected, it will be interesting to see just how both stadium and racino backers will be able to use this information. Of course this does not mean the state is out of the woods merely that the next year and a half will end in a surplus – all variables remaining the same.
Rep Tom Hackbarth (R) is the author of draft legislation for the establishment of a racino and has hedged his bets. While money would be set aside for the debt service on bonds floated for the Vikings stadium, it would also provide the mechanism for paying back our children the billions borrowed from future school monies to balance the last biennium budget. There would also be money for purses, the state and a new stadium for the St. Paul Saints. Regardless of the fate of the Vikings, the school shift WILL have to be paid back and the establishment of a $1.7 million fund for equine development (trails, non-profits, horse shows, 4H etc.) will help equine organizations all over the state, not just the racing industry. These additional codices could be what help to carry the bill – especially with the surplus projected.
Given the issues facing the legislature as they head into regular session, it’s a good bet that if a special session doesn’t occur, racino legislation – as well as the Vikings stadium – would go on the back burner.
Or disappear altogether.