Bill to raise Rochester's lodging tax introduced

Byron Republican Rep. Duane Quam has introduced a bill aimed at changing how the city of Rochester would pay for its share of the $77 million Mayo Civic Center expansion. The bill gives the city the authorization to raise its lodging tax by 3 percent. It also gets rid of an authorization given to the city in 2009 by the legislature allowing them to raise the city's food and beverage tax by 1 percent.

Initially, city officials wanted to pay for its share of the civic center project by raising the city's lodging tax by 1 percent and the food and beverage tax by 1 percent. But officials changed their mind late last year after concerns were raised about the impact of the food and beverage tax on local residents. Instead, the city council decided to raise the lodging tax by 3 percent with the idea that tax is generally paid by people who live outside of the community.

The city is seeking $35 million in bonding money from the state. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's $775 million bonding proposal includes the civic center project. Republican legislative leaders have said they expect to pass a much smaller bonding bill, and it remains to be seen whether the Rochester project will be included.

This bill as bipartisan support from local lawmakers. Bill co-sponsors are Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester and Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston. A Senate version of the bill has not yet been introduced.

Mayor Ardell Brede helped organize the meeting at the urging of local lawmakers who support the civic center project. The first meeting will be at noon on Feb. 28, and the second will be at 6 p.m. on March 6. Both will be at Mayo Civic Center.

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