Dig into details before scoffing at Mayo Clinic’s planPublished 10:19am Thursday, February 7, 2013
We appreciate honesty and directness in our lawmakers, but there’s something quite unsettling in comments made last week by House Taxes Committee Chairwoman Ann Lenczewski, who is a DFLer from Bloomington.
Just one day after Mayo Clinic announced it wants to pay for the lion’s share of a $6 billion plan to turn Rochester into one of the world’s foremost medical destinations, Lenczewski wasn’t just skeptical — she was dismissive, calling the project “a massive public subsidy” that “seems pretty unlikely to ever happen.”
We would politely suggest that, when the state’s largest employer declares its desire to bring up to 45,000 new jobs to Minnesota over a 20-year period, with a resulting $3 billion in additional tax revenue, it might behoove the tax chair at least to hold a hearing or two before she publicly scoffs at the idea.
Mayo’s proposal isn’t a whim, some half-baked notion that popped up during idle chatter around a water cooler. This plan was three years in the making, and if it yields even half of what Mayo is projecting — $45 billion in total economic impact and 2,000 construction jobs per year for 20 years — then it would be economically irresponsible not to give the plan a fair shake.
Yes, it’s an ambitious proposal and a complicated one. Members of our editorial board sat down with Mayo Clinic’s leadership team last week and received a firsthand explanation of the funding mechanism, but we still had to come back the next day for further clarification. We expect legislators to have plenty of questions about how the “value capture” of increased tax revenues would work, and those questions will need good answers. Even Gov. Mark Dayton, who called Mayo’s announcement “an exciting day for Minnesota,” offered a cautionary note, saying “I don’t know if this is exactly the right financing mechanism.”
To be fair, Lenczewski also has made some positive statements about the clinic’s proposal while also expressing her belief that, “We have to make sure the taxpayers are getting a good deal.”
We couldn’t agree more — and to achieve that certainty, our elected officials in St. Paul need to dig into the details and make some visits to Rochester. They need to see firsthand what the clinic already has done here. They need to look at the Gonda Building. They need to see the half-dozen construction cranes that dominate Rochester’s skyline, all proof of Mayo’s ongoing investment here.
Only then will they be able to fully comprehend what the future could hold.
— Rochester Post-Bulletin, Feb. 5