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Senate holds the Mayo, pulling medical center bill off agenda for now

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks under Funding, Health care, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators Updated: April 12, 2013 - 4:43 PM

The Mayo Clinic might have spared itself some grief if it had talked to more lawmakers before it hit them up for half a billion dollars.

"To be honest, the original proposal hadn't involved the Legislature as much as it should have," said Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, who pulled the bill off his Friday agenda, saying it needed more work.

The delay is the latest setback for the $585 million Mayo bill. Both the House and Senate are hammering out major changes in the bill's financing and structure. The House sponsor is working on a "Plan B" version of the bill that will go back to the House Taxes Committee next week.

The House and Senate tax committees are working with Mayo officials, Skoe said, to hammer out an improved version of the Mayo bill. Both tax chairs have indicated that they would like to scrap the complicated tax capture plan Mayo has proposed and take a hard look at some of the funding requests in the bill, as well as the question of whether Rochester is paying its fair share of the project.

"That's part of the reason we didn't move forward today," Skoe said. "We need to have all parties at the table and try to work forward, so when we come forward with the next proposal, there's more consensus around it."

Mayo the state's largest employer, wants to vastly expand its Rochester campus, but only if Rochester can be remade into the kind of city that attracts patients and physicians to Mayo's doors. It has offered to pump $3 billion into improving the downtown, and to attract another $2 billion in private investments to attract new hotels, restaurants and other amenities. And it wants the state to put up half a billion dollars to help with new infrastructure to support all that new development.

"There are three partners in this," Skoe said. "We want the city of Rochester to be successful, we want Mayo Clinic to be successful and grow in our state, we want the state of Minnesota to do well. Our responsibility is to ensure that the taxpayers' interests are protected."

If Mayo can't get state support for that expansion, its CEO warned this week, it may have to look to expand its Florida and Arizona campuses instead.

In response to Skoe's statement, Mayo spokesman Karl Oestreich said: "[Mayo's] financing plan continues to make good progress in both the House and Senate, with additional policymakers announcing support for the initiative and key players working together to develop an alternative funding approach that addresses questions raised about the initial proposal. There is still work to be done, but we believe important progress has been made in the past week and momentum on the issue continues to build toward finding a solution that works for everyone, including the State, the City of Rochester and Mayo Clinic."

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