When the 2012 Legislature approved the Vikings stadium, it trumpeted the notion that it would use no general fund money.
That focus made a virtue out of political necessity, as nobody believed the public would stand for diverting money from other purposes to a business subsidy, not even a business as beloved as Minnesota’s NFL team.
A year later, we have come to realize what should have been apparent then: The financing mechanism for the state’s sizable share of the stadium price was too gimmicky to be relied on. Electronic pulltabs aren’t going to raise more money than the entire price of Target Field after all.
And the 2013 Legislature, at the behest of Gov. Mark Dayton, has turned to general fund money to backstop 2012’s mistake.
Dayton’s rationale for the reversal is that the state is now committed to the project and cannot afford to see it fail. True as that may be, the state is in that position because either the proponents sincerely misjudged their proposal, or because they misled us with it. Neither is attractive.
The lesson from this fiasco should be this: Any governmental project should be paid for by either a open and honest tax or by a well-designed, well targeted user fee. If the tax or the fee is unpalatable, the project isn’t worth doing.
The Vikings stadium failed on that measure. The 2012 Legislature turned to a gimmick.
And now we’ll pay for that mistake.