It took a do-over vote but Mayo Clinic’s quest for state dollars to
help support its ambitious expansion efforts cleared a critical hurdle
on Monday night.
But it’s passage was anything but easy. On the first try, the Senate tax bill that includes roughly half a billion for Mayo’s Destination Medical Center initiative failed to pass by a vote of 32 to 34, with seven Democrats in the DFL-controlled Senate casting “no” votes. After a short meeting where Democrats gathered in the retiring room to meet, a motion was made to reconsider the tax bill. It eventually passed 35 to 31 with Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, and Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley switch their votes. Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope also voted after failing to vote the first time around. That bill’s passage brought about accusations of arm twisting from Republicans — something Democrats denied.
Rochester Sen. Dave Senjem was the lone Republican to vote for the tax bill both times. He said he is strongly opposed to most of the tax increases in the bill, saying the DMC project “is a rose in a bed or rocks.” But at the end of the day, the Mayo Clinic retiree said he has to support this massive project that will create an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 jobs.
“As I drive home, I drive home with the idea that I must support Destination Medical Center. It’s just that great,” Senjem said.
But Senjem also supported not reconsidering a vote on the failed tax bill, saying it was clear the bill still needed work. Voting yes on the tax bill were Senjem and DFL Sens. Matt Schmit of Red Wing and Dan Sparks of Austin. Voting no were DFL Sen. Vicky Jensen of Owatonna and GOP Sens. Carla Nelson of Rochester and Jeremy Miller of Winona.
Last week, the House passed a tax bill that including Mayo’s DMC project. Differences between the two versions will be hashed out in a conference committee. Senjem’s “yes” vote means he will likely get a spot on that key committee.
Like the House bill, the Senate version caps state spending at $327 million over 20 years for general infrastructure. Those dollars would be
used to pay public infrastructure that includes parking ramps, an atrium
and site development. n.
Both versions call for sharing $116 million in transportation costs with Olmsted County. It’s estimated the county’s share would be $40 million. Before those dollars would flow, Mayo would have to invest $250 million.
These infrastructure upgrades are aimed at supporting Mayo’s quest to transform itself into a global destination for health care. Mayo has pledged to invest $3.5 billion to expand its Rochester campus and plans to leverage more than $2 billion in private investments.
After tax bill failed, Nelson cautioned Rochester residents about getting worried Mayo's DMC plan wouldn't pass. She said of all the bills this session a tax bill needs to pass to cover the state's $627 million deficit and additional spending proposed by the DFL-led Legislature.
"I don't want people in Rochester to freak out. The tax bill will pass," she said.