The Mayo Clinic raised some eyebrows earlier this year with the announcement of its $6 billion expansion project for Rochester, one that would transform the southern Minnesota city into an attractive destination center with theaters, fancy restaurants and new office buildings. The Mayo Clinic, one of the most respected medical centers in the country, if not the world, says it needs that kind of development over the next couple of decades to keep up with its competition in bigger cities.
Mayo is asking the state for $500 million in tax breaks ($30 million over the next 30 years) to help finance the roads, transit and infrastructure improvements needed for the project.
The size of the project was surprising, but the announcement was met with a general feeling of support. The Mayo Clinic, after all, is a huge employer and a major force in Minnesota. It helps make the state unique.
This week, however, legislators have been looking hard at the project and asking tough questions about the state's role in this, whether taxpayers statewide should be asked to subsidize this development for the benefit of Mayo and the city of Rochester. After all, the Mall of America and 3M are standing by with major projects, and would be glad to tap into the state's taxpayers as well. Who knows who would be next?
We have no problem with legislators examining this request carefully and taking their time with it. Half a billion dollars is a lot of money to ask of the taxpayers. The Mayo Clinic should expect to undergo a lot of scrutiny and to explain to taxpayers why they deserve this support.