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Chair of House panel blasts Mayo's request for Rochester aid

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A key Minnesota lawmaker says a bill committing more than half-a-billion dollars to Rochester building projects as part of a Mayo Clinic expansion will not pass the House Taxes Committee in its current form.

Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, chairs that committee. She suggested at a hearing Tuesday that the tax arrangements the plan entails are too costly to the state and the economic benefits are overstated.

The tax committee did not vote on the plan and will take the bill up again after it's been modified, possibly next week. But as the Pioneer Press reports, the hearing gave Lenczewski a chance to vent about what she considers a massive public subsidy.

Mayo announced in January that it's prepared to embark on a 20-year, multi-billion dollar expansion of its Rochester facilities. But only if the state commits to $585 million in improvement projects in the city and Olmsted County. The clinic, already Minnesota's largest private employer, says the plan would create more than 30,000 new jobs and generate more than $5 billion in private investment.

Lenczewski's chagrin was touched off in part by a new report from Minnesota House Research. Finance & Commerce reports the study raised doubts about the long-term benefit to the state of a fund that would steer tax dollars coming from Rochester back into the city. Lenczewski argues such a fund would increase the tax burden on other Minnesotans.

MPR reports a Mayo doctor noted that the clinic's location in a comparatively small city of 100,000 puts it in a unique position relative to its competitors. He suggested that calls for a unique type of investment to keep Mayo competitive.

The bill's House sponsor, Rochester DFLer Kim Norton, tells MPR she's willing to make changes to the bill but ruled out an overhaul of the plan.

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