One of Minnesota's most powerful elected officials has acknowledged his opposition to a special fall session of the state legislature designed to finalize plans for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. Instead, House Majority leader Kurt Zellers prefers to address the issue during the regular 2012 session, scheduled to open in late January.
The revelation was enough to prompt an unscheduled meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton, who is pushing for the special session. After the meeting, Zellers declined to clarify his position.
To me, the stakes are clear.
It's understandable if Zellers and other state legislators want to avoid rushing approval for what is currently a $1.057 billion project. But there could be a price for taking their time -- beyond the obvious threat of relocation once the Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires Feb. 1.
Think of this in terms of NFL free agency. Teams have exclusive negotiating rights with their own players during a period of time in February before the market opens. The idea, if at all possible, is to re-sign your elite players before they have an opportunity to seek a more lucrative offer elsewhere. If nothing else, the original team might have to increase its offer to match the new one in order to keep a prized player.
If state leaders wait until the spring to pick up this issue, they'll have surrendered those exclusive rights and allowed a leverage shift to the Vikings in a free agent environment. If the Vikings choose, they could solicit offers elsewhere -- or merely threaten to -- and use them as leverage against Minnesota. At the very least, the state might have to accept a less favorable deal at that point than the one currently on the table.
We're a long way from that point, of course. And I can see why the current group of state legislators don't want to be strong-armed into a deal. They aren't necessarily the same group that has avoided this issue for the past decade and left it on the precipice of a deadline. But for every act, there is at least a potential consequence. Let's hope everyone understands that.