UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Sen. Carla Nelson and she said she did not mean to come across as blasting the governor. She said her concern has been to make sure the process is transparent and that members of the public know that there is a set list of criteria that must be used to determine which projects should get funded.
"I just know that as a citizen sitting in southeast Minnesota and reading not just what the governor said and the media around this in general, I was left with the impression this could be a gubernatorial decision, she said."
Below is what I initially posted based on the senator's press release. Click here to Download Nelson press release
Rochester Sen. Carla Nelson blasted DFL Gov. Mark Dayton today for saying he will make the final decision on which projects should be awarded some of the $47.5 million in economic development grant money.
In a news release, the Republican senator said she was "taken aback" by media reports last week that the governor said he would decide how that money should be divvied out.
"It is essential that lawmakers and the public be assured that the removal of legislative earmarks not be replaced by mere gubernatorial earmarks or political pandering," she said.
There's plenty at stake for the city of Rochester in the grant process. The city has requested $25 million from the Department of Employment and Economic Development grant to expand the Mayo Civic Center. That project was among several others that failed to make it into the final $496 million bonding bill. Instead of deciding which projects should get the $47.5 million, lawmakers created the grant program. Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem has said that was a way to get rid of earmarks. Critics accuse lawmakers of abdicating their responsibility to determine how these dollars are spent.
Nelson said she contacted DEED's commissioner on Friday to urge that the grant process be as transparent as possible.
"I want to publicly thank and congratulate DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips for committing to me that once the final selections have been made, all documentation and the rating sheet for each project application will be made publically available," she said.
Nelson, a member of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, has said she played a key role in helping crafting the 11 criteria that are to be used in ranking the projects. They incude number of jobs created, the projected increase to the local tax base and the capacity of the project to attract revenue from out of state.
"The legislative language clearly states that project selection must be based on the highest return in public benefits for the public cost incurred," she said.