Open Letter from Ralph Nader to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty Urging the Veto of Legislation that Authorizes a New Taxpayer Funded Stadium for the Minnesota Twins

The Honorable Tim Pawlenty
Governor of Minnesota

Dear Governor Pawlenty:

The Minnesota Twins’ stadium bill before you is an affront to taxpayers and voters, and I urge you to veto the legislation.

Press coverage indicates that you will sign the bill into law prior to the Twins game on Friday. If you sign, not only will you force Hennepin County taxpayers to pay $387 million in corporate welfare sales taxes to build the stadium, but you will waive their right — by state law — to a local referendum vote on any new sales tax. Additionally, you will seal the Minnesota Vikings’ expectations that the voter referendum will be waived for the continuation of their own stadium shakedown next year. How can you possibly defend such disenfranchisement of local voters to enrich a commercial entertainment company?

Even if you are a supporter of the public subsidization of stadiums for the benefit of private, monopoly entertainment, there is certainly no justification, other than autocracy, to deny residents the right to vote on having a tax levied upon them for such a purpose. But judging from past pledges, you are not a supporter of taxpayer funded stadiums. According to Citizens for a Stadium Tax Referendum, you pledged to specifically oppose public funding for professional sports facilities. And according to the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, you signed a Taxpayer Protection Pledge promising to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

If you sign this bill, taxpayers will be on the hook for any rise in land costs at the site designated for the new stadium. With reported environmental concerns looming at the downtown site, you can be sure that you would be sticking taxpayers with open-ended costs. Further, should the Metrodome be demolished, the public would not even benefit from appreciation in the old stadium site due to a provision — as reported by the St. Paul Pioneer Press — “that would earmark most of the proceeds from the sale of the Metrodome site to a Vikings stadium.” This is the giveaway that keeps on giving-away.

Almost annually for a decade, the various legislative and voter jurisdictions in your state (from which billionaire Twins owner Carl Pohlad and his lobbyists have demanded a taxpayer handout) have emphatically said “NO!” to taxpayer funding for a Twins stadium. Now, on the brink of defeat for responsible government — reportedly due, in part, to “stadium fatigue” among legislators who just wanted the issue to be done with — lobbyists for the Twins continue to play the extortion card, as they have for years, either by threatening to leave or claiming the Twins would be contracted out of existence.

But the Twins have shown that they aren’t going anywhere. How could they? They wouldn’t leave or be contracted out of the 15th largest media market in the country (according to Nielsen Media Research). The Minneapolis-St. Paul market is larger than the Major League Baseball markets of Cleveland, Miami, Denver, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, San Diego, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati.

The sports fans have done their part, and the taxpayers certainly have more pressing needs for tax dollars than corporate entertainment — namely public necessities of the community. Please veto the Twins’ stadium bill and tell Carl Pohlad that if he wants a profitable new stadium, he should build it, like the capitalist he purports to be, without taxpayer subsidies.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
Washington, DC

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