Do Rochester lawmakers 'owe their souls to the company store?'
In a recent blog post, Taxpayers League of Minnesota President Phil Krinkie made clear he is not a fan of Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center plan. He writes that the clinic's $6 billion proposal would turn Rochester into a company town.
He compares the situation to the 1950s country tune by Tennessee Ernie Ford called "Sixteen Tons" about a laborer who works all day loading 16 tons of coal. The song lyric's include "Saint Peter don't you call me cause I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store."
While these company towns have traditionally been thought of as small, rural communities, Krinkie writes that Mayo Clinic's proposal will do just that in the state's third largest city. But unlike the approach taken by mining companies in rural towns, Mayo Clinic is looking to do it by setting up an economic development zone. The clinic has pledged to invest $3.5 billion to expand its Rochester campus and leverage $2 billion in private investment as part of its proposal. The clinic wants $585 million in public funds to help pay for public infrastructure to support that expansion. A recent state fiscal analysis concludes that the total debt service for the bill could cost the state more than $1 billion.
Krinkie writes, "The simple reality of this proposal is to make Rochester a 'company town' and in this case the 'company' is the Mayo Clinic. All tax revenue will flow to the 'Medical Development Authority' and the Authority will spend the money the way the Mayo Clinic wants."
The former Republican lawmaker goes on to write that, "If you live in Rochester, you won’t have any choice but to work, shop, eat and partake in community activities, while all your income and sales tax dollars support the Medical Development Authority. Just like in the old days, there is no escaping having to support the company town. Based on the members of the Legislature who are the key authors on the bill, it looks like they already owe their souls to the company store."