Racino support grows as possible Vikings funding option
The push to fund a Vikings stadium has racino supporters hoping this could finally be their chance to get the proposal passed. Backers of a proposal to allow video slot machines at horse-racing tracks are urging DFL Gov. Mark Dayton to consider these so-called "racinos" to help fund a new Vikings stadium.
Three area lawmakers joined 28 others in signing a letter to the governor that says "all of the undersigned agree: Racino is the best way of passing a Vikings stadium package."
They argue it would raise $135 million a year and would have the added benefit of generating economic development in the agriculture, hospitality and construction industries.
To help build support for the idea, lawmakers suggest some of the money be used to speed up repayment of delayed payments to school districts that was part of the budget deal in July. Area lawmakers who signed the letter are Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, and Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin.
Senjem is the chief author of the racino bill. He said he believes supporters are close to getting the votes they would need to pass racino. So why is he such a fan of the idea?
"First and foremost, it does promote the agricultural industry. We probably don't talk about that enough. If we are going to have horse racing going on in Minnesota in the future, we are going to have to give it some level of additional support," he said.
American Indian tribes that control casino gambling in Minnesota remain staunchly opposed to racinos, saying racinos will result in lost jobs at existing casinos in greater Minnesota.
Quist vs. Parry?
Republican Allen Quist said last week that he will "very likely" run again for the 1st Congressional District seat. I asked Quist why he would want to jump into the race when another conservative lawmakers who shares a lot of Quist's views is running — state Sen. Mike Parry of Waseca.
Quist said a "significant" number of senate Republicans told him they want Parry to stay in the Minnesota Senate.
"I mean, c'mon. This is the first time the Republicans have had the majority in the Senate since party designation came, and anything that is going to make it harder for the Republicans to keep control of the Senate, I am going to oppose," he said.
Parry announced last month he would challenge 1st District DFL Rep. Tim Walz. So far, he is the only Republican to officially jump into the race.
Quist ran for the congressional seat in 2010 but dropped out after losing the Republican endorsement to Randy Demmer. Quist has a long history in the Republican Party. He challenged incumbent Republican Gov. Arne Carlson in 1994 and won the party's endorsement. But Quist lost the primary to Carlson.
When asked if he would abide by the Republican endorsement if he does run, Quist said he has historically done that but would not specifically say if he would in this case.
If he does run, Quist said, he will emphasize his opposition to the federal health care overhaul. He argues "Obamacare" penalizes married couples and leads to an "extraordinary income redistribution."
Mayo Clinic not involved with GOP health care task force
The Republican Party of Minnesota announced last week it was establishing a health care task force charged with developing and recommending legislation aimed at improving access to affordable quality health care. Notably absent from discussions is a representative from Mayo Clinic.
John Tyler, of Boys and Tyler Financial Group, Inc., is chairman of the GOP task force. Other members include party chairman Tony Sutton and Dr. Ken Heithoff. No Rochester-area lawmakers are on the task force, although party spokeswoman Heather Rubash said any Republican legislator is welcome to attend a meeting. Gov. Dayton recently announced he had established the Minnesota Health Care Reform Task Force. Dr. Doug Wood, a professor at Mayo Clinic, is on the task force.
The clinic has established a Health Policy Center focused on reforming health care. In particular, the clinic has pushed for the need to reform the payment system to make sure that providers are paid based on quality — not quantity — of care.