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Published March 12, 2013, 03:27 PM

Mayo bill pauses as key lawmaker doubts financing

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Mayo Clinic's bid for state help with a massive expansion project encountered resistance Tuesday from a key lawmaker who said the proposal needs a considerable makeover to get through her House committee.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Mayo Clinic's bid for state help with a massive expansion project encountered resistance Tuesday from a key lawmaker who said the proposal needs a considerable makeover to get through her House committee.

House Tax Committee Chairwoman Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, raised concerns that tax preferences Mayo is seeking could come at too steep a price and said it won't advance in its current form.

Mayo wants a state commitment for more than $500 million in future bonding subsidies. In short, a portion of new income and sales tax revenues attributable to a multibillion-dollar expansion would be fed into public infrastructure upgrades.

"Is this a public subsidy that is worth it for our taxpayers and all of Minnesota?" Lenczewski said as she set the bill aside until Mayo officials and their legislative backers return next week with possible changes. She told reporters later, "There's a lot of work to be done here."

The new public authority that would oversee the project would have to prove the Mayo expansion is leading to significant tax growth in order to shake loose the public money, using 2011 as the baseline.

But bill sponsor, Democratic Rep. Kim Norton of Rochester, said she thinks tweaks will clear up the concerns.

"I don't know if it needs remodeling. There are still misunderstandings," Norton said.

Mayo officials argue that the ratio of private money to public dollars over 20 years would be 10 to one.

Meanwhile, a Mayo presentation to the committee offered the most detailed examples yet of what the state money would cover. More than half would cover roads, bridges, bus systems and other transportation costs. Demolition, utility improvements, environmental mitigation and storm water management projects would consume another sizable chunk. As much as $47 million could be used for public spaces, green corridors, trails and extensions to the city's river walk.

Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday that he supports the idea of aiding Mayo, but he's uneasy about committing so much money in one swoop.

"I don't see why it all has to be financed upfront," he said.

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