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Norton: DMC cruising in final weeks

It ain't over 'til the plus-size soprano sings, but Destination Medical Center is in good shape as the legislative session heads toward the final curtain, Rep. Kim Norton said today at a breakfast meeting in Rochester.

Mayo's plan to invest about $3.5 billion in its Rochester operations over the next 20 years, which the clinic says will generate another $2 billion in private development and require about $585 million in public infrastructure spending, is included in the House and Senate omnibus tax bills and is now in conference committee.

The DFL-controlled House and Senate will vote once more on the bill, and then it goes to DFL Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature.

That all appears to be on track, with the major remaining issue being how DMC decisions, including bonding decisions, will be made, Norton said.

"The differences have narrowed" between the House and Senate versions, the House District 25B representative said. "The primary consternation is, what does the (governing) structure look like," creating a local development authority with "checks and balances for the funding."


The issue, however, is "who's in charge and who has the authority, not how much money will be available," Norton said.

She made the comments at the Eggs & Issues legislative breakfast at the Ramada Hotel, presented by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. Norton was the only lawmaker who attended, due to the crush of events at the Capitol. In fact, she spoke briefly at the start of the meeting, then headed back to St. Paul.

Among key changes that appear to be coming -- and one that Mayo and local leaders will welcome -- is that bonding authorization will be handled locally rather than at the state level, in part because that would minimize the impact on the state's bonding capacity.

Norton said she's been pleasantly surprised by how "no one has even questioned the $585 million" in public infrastructure spending that Mayo requested. The complicated little matter of how that money will be raised through taxes is another matter, but she said the $585 million figure hasn't been challenged, so local officials are probably "getting more than they anticipated."

The project and the infrastructure spending has "resonated well with committee members," she said.

Norton also commented on the overall tax bill and prospects for property tax relief. On the latter point, she said, "I'm pretty sure there'll be property tax relief," and regarding comprehensive tax reform this session, she said that's not in the cards.

Also talking about taxes at the meeting this morning were former 1st District Rep. Tim Penny; Tom Horner, the Independence Party candidate for governor in 2010; and Chris Tiedeman, of Weber Johnson Public Affairs.

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