Friday, September 07, 2007

Priorities, if you want to talk about them 

Gerald Prante writes about one priority Minnesota government spending has had recently: sports stadia.
Minnesota's public officials have "touched 'em all":

� Minneapolis forgives $74 million loan it made to the Timberwolves basketball team for the Target Center. Franchise asking for more aid.

� Xcel Energy Center built for the Wild hockey team with $65 million in city bonds and a $48 million interest-free state loan, plus a $17 million payment for state high school hockey tournaments to be held there. Franchise now asking that loan be forgiven, citing Timberwolves example.

� Legislature approves $392 million of taxpayer money for new Twins baseball stadium next to the Target Center, funded by sales tax hike in Hennepin County.

� State approves $136 million for new Univ. of Minnesota football stadium.

� After failed move to Anoka County, Vikings pro football team proposes a $1 billion stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue lobbies for public funding. Team could threaten to move to Los Angeles.

This waste hasn't gotten much press since the bridge collapse. Instead, the hounds are sniffing Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who vetoed a gas tax increase. The governor should stand up and defend his veto as Minnesota already spends more than most states on roads. But instead he's backtracking fast, possibly because the most recent sports boondoggles have occurred on his watch.

The sad truth is that when it comes to spending priorities we have very few politicians who can withstand scrutiny, so expecting a public debate about it is foolish. Sports stadia, at least, both left and right can agree is corporate welfare. Getting rid of it is good. But the question comes to what is the proper scope of government. Arguing for a smaller government in the context of a flood and a bridge collapse is agreeing to play as the visiting team. You're on lousy terrain. Find another hill to fight from.

One bright spot: You can forget that Vikings stadium any time soon.

(Cross-posted at True North.)

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