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House Tax Chair: Rochester and Olmsted County need to kick in more for Mayo

The chair of the Minnesota House taxes committee says she thinks Rochester and Olmsted County need to kick in more taxes to pay for local improvements as part of the Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center plan.

The Mayo Clinic is asking the state for more than $500 million to help Rochester support the clinic's $3 billion investment in the area. The Clinic's plan calls for a portion of future sales, income and property tax revenues to pay for the improvements. But Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said Rochester and Olmsted County should consider local option sales taxes, a lodging tax, an entertainment tax and a transit tax before asking the state for help.

"You've got to put a lot more in the game here before you can look to the state," Lenczewski said. "I've been trying to express that to them. I'm not saying no to everything. You have to show you're lifting your own weight before you're ask us for anything."

Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, is the chief author of the Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center plan. She said local option taxes are not an idea Rochester and Olmsted County have discussed.

"There's been no talk of that at all in our community and I think that will come as a surprise to local citizens," Norton said. "Before we get too excited about the fact that there seems to be a more positive approach to including DMC in the tax bill, which is good news. It will only be good news if it isn't too hurtful to my local community."

Rochester has already committed about $60 million dollars from a local sales tax to pay for improvements related to the Mayo Clinic's expansion plans.

The House Tax Committee took some action on the bill today. The committee sent the bonding related portions of the bill to the House Capital Investment Committee. Lenczewski said the tax related portions of the bill will be debated in her committee next week.

Lenczewski and Senate Tax Chair Rod Skoe are also asking the Mayo Clinic and Rochester officials to provide specifics on how the money will be spent in Rochester. They sent a letter to Mayo CEO John Noseworthy and Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede asking for the list of projects.

"If you have a kid who says I need $8,.000, I think you're smart enough to say, for what?," Lenczewski said. "First they have to show that they need $585 million and when do they need it? No one has seen that detail yet."

The Senate Tax Committee has yet to hold a hearing on the Mayo bill.

Here's the letter:

Tax Committee letter to Mayo