Elk Run and hospital tax @ Legislature
Some hot local topics are cooking at the state legislature. Here's some from two of the stories filed for today by our eyes at the state house, Heather Carlson:
Pine Island’s Elk Run development would be eligible for $2 million in state grants as part of an economic development bill headed to the governor’s desk. The House on Tuesday approved the $263 million bill that funds a wide range of programs including workforce training, business development and housing. It passed by a vote of 74-54. The Senate approved the measure 38-28 on Monday night.Within that larger bill is language aimed at making sure the 2,300-acre Elk Run project is eligible for the state grant money. It allows this grant money from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to be used for projects that include residential development — such as Elk Run. A biobusiness park is also planned at Elk Run, along with other commercial development.The bill also includes $300,000 for job-training programs for immigrants and refugees. It specifically notes that these dollars can be spent in Rochester.Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, said she had been pushing to make sure that funding was included. In the past, Rochester’s Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association has received grant funding. It also includes $1 million for the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota.-------Those voting against the bill included Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Wabasha, Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona and Rep. Andy Welti, DFL-Plainview. In the Senate, Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes, DFL-Winona, and Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, voted against the bill.Liebling said she was deeply troubled with the state forgiving the loan so the city can build a new project.“If we’re going to start forgiving loans, we need to discuss loan forgiveness for other projects around the state,” she said.But Norton voted in favor of the bill. While she said she is concerned about the loan forgiveness, “it wasn’t worth taking the whole bill down.”
Mayo Clinic is preparing to fight a proposed increase to the state’s provider tax on hospitals, even as the Minnesota Hospital Association backs the idea.With hospitals facing millions of dollars in potential cuts this budget year, the hospital association is offering a last resort to lawmakers — consider boosting the tax charged to hospitals. Association president Lawrence Massa said the organization’s board agreed to boost the provider tax from 2 percent to 3 percent, generating an estimated $500 million in new revenue for the state. The tax helps fund MinnesotaCare, a state-subsidized insurance program for low-income individuals and families.The hospital association has stipulated that if the tax is increased, the money would have to go toward health care spending — not plugging the state deficit.Mayo Clinic opposes any increase to the provider tax, said Frank Iossi, the clinic’s director of state government relations. Last year, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Health Systems paid $53 million in provider taxes. And while most hospitals in the state are able to pass that tax on to insurance companies through contracts, Mayo Clinic is different, Iossi says. Since more than half of the clinic’s patients are from out of state, the clinic ends up absorbing those costs. Iossi said that is a big deal when you consider last year the Mayo Clinic and Mayo Health Systems broke even.“That is real money that comes off our bottom line,” Iossi said. “That would have given us $53 million net income, so it’s a big deal.”Olmsted Medical Center also opposes the idea of raising the provider tax, according to OMC President Dr. Roy Yawn. Last year, he said OMC paid $2.1 million in provider taxes. If the tax is raised to 3 percent, he said that would likely bring the center’s total to $3 million — the same amount it spends on capital improvements for a year.