State rep discusses ballpark plan
In exclusive Q&A, Rep. Finstad explains process of passing bill
State representative Brad Finstad (R-New Ulm) is the House sponsor of the bill authorizing Hennepin County to levy a countywide .15 percent sales tax to pay for a new Twins ballpark in downtown Minneapolis. MLB.com sat down with Finstad two days after the contentious Hennepin County Board of Commissioners meeting that resulted in a 4-3 approval to pass the ballpark proposal to the State Legislature.
MLB.com: What message did you take from the deliberations of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners over the proposal?
Finstad: I think the main message is this is a serious issue, and they really did their best to reach out to their constituents and hear all sides of it. I think at the end of the day, they came back with the idea to come to the legislature to ask us to give them another tool to do some economic development in their community.
MLB.com: Did the three hours of public testimony give you a good sense of the opinions of Twins fans, stadium opponents and the downtown business community?
Finstad: I didn't get to sit in and hear the testimony, but I've received numerous phone calls and e-mails from citizens all across the state, so I'm doing everything I can to make sure I am hearing people's concerns about the stadium. I'm open to listing to people on all sides of the issue.
MLB.com: What are you hearing from people in outstate Minnesota?
Finstad: They love the proposal. They think it's the best they've seen, and their message is pretty clear -- 'Get the job done.' We've been discussing this issue for going on 10 years now, and the message I'm hearing from outstate is, 'Get the job done. Let's move on and get the Twins playing outside again.'
MLB.com: What, if any, reaction did you have to the repeated requests for a referendum on this issue?
Finstad: It's a local control proposal, and it's allowing the County Commissioners of Hennepin County to make this decision. They're elected officials just like I am, and they have constituents they're accountable to. They get their name on the ballot. We're giving them the option to use as a tool, to do with it what they want.
MLB.com: Obviously, this bill differs from past proposals because it requires no state money. Is that the only reason to assume this has a chance of passing, or have other developments taken place to change the Legislature's attitude toward the ballpark?
Finstad: The biggest thing is that it involves no state general-fund dollars. That's a huge sell of this bill. People all over the state are saying it's a good proposal.
And, I think the mood of the legislature has changed to the point where, we've talked about this for 10 years, this is best proposal we've seen. So it's time to get this done and move on. Clearly it's not going away, so it's something we need to address.
MLB.com: We've heard many times that the legislature won't deal with the ballpark until other big-ticket issues are resolved, such as education, health care and transportation. How likely is it that the ballpark bill will reach the House and Senate before this session ends?
Finstad: It sounds like we're going to move the bill through some committees next week. We're real close to getting our finance bills off the House floor by next week. Once that's done, then we can move on this proposal. By Monday or Tuesday we should have all our finance bills off House floor.
The way I was taught as a kid, you eat your vegetables before you get dessert. We're close to cleaning our plate with the vegetables, so it's time to look at this proposal by the middle of next week, probably.
MLB.com: Would Gov. Pawlenty schedule a special session for the ballpark if the issue isn't resolved before May 23?
Finstad: I would say no. If there's another special session to address other major financing bills, it would probably be a part of it.
MLB.com: Walk us through the path the ballpark bill must travel between now and the time the full House and Senate could vote on it.
Finstad: In the House, we'll take it through two committees next week -- the Local Government committee, which is a 19-member group, and then it'll move on from there to the House Tax committee, which is a 29-member committee. Then we'd move it to the house floor for a vote.
MLB.com: What can Twins fans do to lobby the legislature to pass this bill?
Finstad: Personally contact your legislator -- make sure you've done phone calls and e-mails and let your legislators know it's important to you, where you stand on issue. And, make sure you follow up to make sure they're hearing your needs and concerns.
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.