Rochester legislators jockey for position on DMC
To be posted in final form in a few minutes:
Rochester legislators gave an enthusiastic group hug to Mayo's
Destination Medical Center initiative this morning at a local breakfast
meeting, with one House member saying it might be the best piece of
economic development legislation in Minnesota in a century.
But they also laid the groundwork for who'll take the blame if DMC doesn't make it through the Capitol this session.
The House and Senate bills, which are enormously complex and propose a structure for nearly $6 billion in private and public development in Rochester over the next 20 years, were introduced Thursday. The Mayo plan was unveiled barely a week ago in a grand press event in the Governor's Reception Room. Gov. Mark Dayton gave it a shout-out Wednesday in his State of the State address, but the bills were only drafted in final form this week.
State Rep. Tina Liebling, a DFLer, said the DMC proposal is "enormously complicated" and involves taxing, infrastructure and governance issues that will demand a lot of attention and debate. "People in the community will need to get their heads around" many aspects of the plan that are barely known at this point, she said. She referred to new debt and borrowing authority that are included in the legislation, for example, and questions about the new governing board that would have far-reaching authority.
"As much as we all think this is a good idea, it's a very big thing to move forward in a short amount of time," she said. "It will be an enormously heavy lift, and it will require an enormous amount of help to get it done."
Her comments were apparently a reference to help from Republicans as well as Democrats to get the bills through the House and Senate. Speaking after Liebling, GOP Rep. Mike Benson made it clear that, number one, Republicans think that DMC is an unqualified bonanza for the Rochester area, and number two, there's no question who gets the blame if it doesn't happen.
"This might go down as one of the best pieces of legislation in terms of economic development in 50 years or a century," Benson said, making an aside that the bills to help implement the state health insurance exchange for the Affordable Care Act are among the worst.
But if DMC "doesn't happen, it will be because of a failure of leadership from the majority party," he said. The DFL took control of both the House and Senate in the November elections.
They made their comments during the Q & A session at the Eggs & Issues legislative breakfast, at the Canadian Honker Events center in the Ramada Hotel. They were joined by Sens. Dave Senjem and Carla Nelson, and Reps. Kim Norton and Duane Quam.
About 150 people attended the event, sponsored by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. The program opened with an update on the health insurance exchange and how it will be used by individuals and small businesses. The next Eggs & Issues breakfast is set for March 8.