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DFL House Tax chair says Mayo Clinic subsidy ‘pretty unlikely to ever happen’

The Rochester Post-Bulletin notes today that a key DFL lawmaker — House Taxes Committee Chairwoman Ann Lenczewski — doesn’t think much of a huge state subsidy for an expansion of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester:

“It seems pretty unlikely to ever happen,” Lenczewski said. “It’s a massive public subsidy.”

On Thursday, the health care giant announced plans for a major expansion that includes $3.5 billion in capital investments and an additional $2.1 billion in private investment over the next 20 years. They say it could add tens of thousands of  jobs statewide.

The plan includes a request for $585 million from the state for parking, transportation, utilities, bridges and other improvements, to be financed with bonds that would be repaid with the new taxes generated by the expansion.

Gov. Mark Dayton was part of the announcement and called it an “exciting day” for Minnesota, but tempered his comments by noting: “I can’t stress the importance of this overall. I don’t know if this is exactly the right financing mechanism.”

Today’s Rochester story says Lenczewski notes that the Legislature has rejected similar projects that wanted to pay for infrastructure with the new  state tax dollars generated by the project.

Without her support, it will be harder to pass the Mayo subsidy this year, said  Republican state Rep. Greg Davids of Preston, who is also on the House Taxes Committee, the story said:

“It’s troubling that (Lenczewski) is not on board on this, but we will work with her,” he said. “If she wants to stop the project,she may have the power to do that, but hopefully in negotiating over a period of time we can get this project moving forward.”

DFL state Rep. Kim Norton of Rochester, who plans to sponsor the Mayo bill, sees challenges.

“Not only is it new, it is going to give Rochester something no one else has ever had and it may set a precedence for what others will ask for in the future, and I think that is something the Legislature needs to think long and hard about,” she said.

But Norton has hope, the story said, that:

…the case can be made that as the state’s large private employer, Mayo Clinic has a level of state activity that no one else can match along with a willingness to invest a massive amount of money in the state.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Carole Heffernan on 02/02/2013 - 01:20 pm.

    Saying no without investigation

    I find the “unlikely to ever happen” comment extremely short sighted. As a Twin Citian who has used the services and spent a great deal of time in Rochester I view this as a idea that deserves a fair hearing. If I had a few bucks to invest I would certainly buy the bonds. The Mayo Clinic is a Minnesota treasure and shows the world the best traits of our state. Having spent a great deal of time there at the clinic, in the shops, restaurants, and hotels I have yet to meet one rude person. Unbelievable but true. Everyone seems to like their job and it translates in how they treat people. I’m sure there are some naysayers and less friendly parts of town than the ones I’ve been exposed to but it’s hard to be anything but your best when you are surrounded by others who are.

    Many of the jobs this would bring are not temporary, gone when built, but rather the kind the state should be seeking. If past success is any indicator of future success just looking at where the clinic started should be enough to thoroughly investigate this request. Partnering with an institution that has proved it’s worth and durability over the years is the kind of investment Minnesota should make.

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/02/2013 - 03:45 pm.

    Part of what I didn’t like about this Mayo Clinic proposal to use huge amounts of state tax dollars to enhance their own environment and business, was their threat to move to Arizona or Florida to expand if the state didn’t come through. (Read that threat in the Star Tribune article on Mayo’s proposal.)

    But there’s something else: Mayo’s intent is to remake the city of Rochester, to benefit itself, to the tune of half a billion state dollars. They want Rochester to be more attractive to its doctors, for example, who currently have what are called “urban cabins” in Minneapolis to which they repair on weekends, instead of staying in a lovely, expensive house in Rochester. That means development, with the dollars to subsidize it. Amenities galore. Etc.

    This is another big corporation attempting to take over a city (in Mayo’s case, even more so than it has since IBM’s decline) and make it to its own design. We all love Mayo. But that has little to do with the huge monies and extraordinary re-make of Rochester that the clinic plans.

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