Our View: DMC legislation should be fixed quickly
When the Destination Medical Center bill passed the Minnesota Legislature in 2013, advocates of Mayo Clinic's 20-year expansion plan proclaimed it one of the biggest moments in Rochester's history.
It was no exaggeration. DMC is the biggest economic development project in Minnesota's history with $6 billion in private investment along with $585 million in public sources to pay for the infrastructure needed to support that growth.
But the celebration was premature. An opinion released Tuesday by the Minnesota Attorney General's office said $12 billion — not $6 billion — in private funding would need to be raised before DMC could tap the full amount of $327 million in state money earmarked for the project.
It's a legal distinction that should have been worked out when the legislation was passed, not clarified 16 months later. The funding formula gives DMC state money equal to 2.75 percent of private investments, up to $30 million a year. Mayo and DMC officials say the calculation should include private investments from all prior years. The attorney general's opinion says the calculation, according to the language in the legislation, applies only to the previous year.
Authors of the legislation say the intent was that the 2.75 percent be applied to private investments from all prior years. DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said she had intended to distribute the state's share on a cumulative basis as Mayo and DMC officials wanted, but she asked for a clarification from the Attorney General's office.
In the opinion published Tuesday, Solicitor General Alan I. Gilbert noted the statute states: "For subsequent years (after the first year), 'qualified expenditures' means the expenditures for the preceding year."
The fix should be an easy one. Clark Sieben suggested legislators change the legislative language to a 5.45 percent multiplier to reach the $6 billion private investment level as had been planned. We see no reason why the amended DMC language shouldn't be passed early in the 2015 session.
But any lawmaker who balks at voting for the DMC revision should be reminded that Mayo's impact extends far beyond Rochester. It is Minnesota's largest private employer with 41,000 workers in the state and 61,000 across the nation. Mayocontributes $9.8 billion of economic impact to Minnesota's economy each year.
DMC is projected to create35,000 to 40,000 new jobs and create $45 billion in economic impact during the next 20 years, generating $2.5 billion in additional state tax revenue and $300 million in local tax revenues.
You don't need to be a financial analyst to recognize DMC as a prudent investment for the state. It was a good bill when it was passed 16 months ago. It will be a better bill when it returns in 2015 for a minor language revision.