The first bill to pass during today's special session includes a provision to makes sure Rochester homeowners don't have to pay for Destination Medical Center administrative costs.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate passed the economic development/energy budget bill. Tucked into the bill is language that would allow the city to tap into an already approved quarter-cent sales tax to pay for DMC administrative costs. It's something city officials and local lawmakers fought for unsuccessfully during the five month-long legislative session. In the end, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton asked lawmakers to pass the provision as part of a special session agreement. The bill is headed to the governor's desk for his signature.
Rochester City Council President Randy Staver admits he wasn't overly optimistic Rochester would be successful in its last-minute quest to get the tax language passed in special session. But he said he is very excited to see the measure pass.
"It just speaks to the hard work of our area legislators as well as some of the leaders in St. Paul that saw value in making that happen," Staver said.
For Rochester property taxpayers, there was plenty at stake in getting the measure passed. The initial estimate for DMC administrative costs over the next five years is $21 million. Those costs have since been scaled back somewhat and Mayo Clinic has agreed to chip in $585,000 per year. Still, city leaders said that once all of the $20 million in DMC funding from a voter-approved city sales tax ran out, city officials would be forced to consider raising property taxes to cover the cost. The measure is also retroactive to 2013.
Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said she decided to vote for the bill with the DMC tax provision in it because it is so important for the community — even though she had concerns about other items in the bill.
"Those Rochester pieces in the jobs bill are to me the overriding concern," Liebling said.
Also included in the economic development/energy bill is language that would change the makeup of the Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Authority from a group of citizens to Olmsted County Board members. The change comes as the board is considering levying a tax for affordable housing. Board members were concerned about having an unelected citizen board deciding how to spend millions of taxpayer dollars.
Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said he hopes with passage of the DMC tax provision, lawmakers are done trying to pass DMC-related provisions for awhile.
He added, "Hopefully, our legislative efforts related to DMC will be way on into the future."