Beyond Football: Legislators Want Vikings Stadium to Benefit Kids
Oakdale’s legislators are introducing a bill that would devote excess revenues from any Vikings stadium legislation to an early childhood program.
Football fans, construction workers and restaurateurs have been named among those who would benefit from a new Vikings stadium.
Oakdale's representatives at the state Capitol want to add one more group to the list—low-income, preschool age children.
Sen. Chuck Wiger and Rep. Nora Slawik, both Maplewood DFLers, said they planned to introduce companion bills Monday that would devote any excess money raised for the facility—through mechanisms like gambling—to go toward early childhood education.
“If we can find the money for a Vikings stadium, we can fund early childhood education,” Slawik said. ”We have 7,000 kids on the waiting lists for childcare and these scholarships would make a significant difference.”
The money would go toward an existing scholarship program that gives low-income families in targeted areas—including Minneapolis and St. Paul—money for high quality childcare programs, Slawik said. The Legislature approved a one-time $6 million allocation for the program a couple of years ago, but that money has run out, she said.
Although Slawik's bill is worded to apply to any stadium funding bill, it specifically mentions H.F. 2810, which would use proceeds from electronic pull-tabs, electronic bingo and tipboard games to help fund the arena.
Attaching a provision like this to a stadium bill isn’t unprecedented, Slawik said.
A similar provision in the Twins stadium legislation devoted excess money to libraries and youth sports programs, she said.
Wiger said early childhood education funding is needed.
“We can save a great deal of money in the state on expensive long-term solutions if we’re able to have young people ready for school,” Wiger said. “It might be costs in special ed or remedial programs. If they’re ready for school, they’re much more likely to succeed.”
The bill has bipartisan support with five authors in the House, and five in the Senate, Slawik said.
Supporters’ strategy will be to get the provisions of the bill added as an amendment to any Vikings stadium bill, Slawik said, but they wanted to introduce separate bills to bring some attention to the idea in advance.
Whether a Vikings stadium bill will pass this session is still a big question, Slawik and Wiger said.
“I think it’s still in the ‘Hail Mary,’ category if it’s going to happen this year,” Wiger said Friday, “but until we’re done, anything can happen.”
If it doesn’t happen this year, it’ll happen next year, he said.
If given the opportunity this year, Slawik said, she’s leaning toward supporting a stadium bill.
“I think that a stadium is a lot about jobs, and this is what this session is about,” she said. “To me, it fits with the agenda of what I came here to do.”