Republicans in the Minnesota House are claiming that a reception state economic development officials and the Mayo Clinic are hosting this month in Chicago is an extravagant waste of taxpayer money.
They referred to the event several times on the House floor Monday during the debate of the Omnibus Jobs, Commerce and Housing Budget Bill. However, a spokesman for the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) said today that there is no taxpayer money involved.
An invitation from DEED announced the event on Sunday, April 21, at the Chicago Yacht Club’s Monroe Station.
“The state of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic request the pleasure of your company at an evening VIP reception on Chicago’s exclusive waterfront,” the invitation reads. “join us for breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, the city’s spectacular skyline and an unrivaled occasion to meet leaders of Minnesota’s remarkable biosciences industries.”
Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, questioned Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, about the invitation.
“Do you view that as a valid use of tax dollars?,” Holberg asked.
Mahoney, the chief author of the omnibus bill, said the pursuit of biotechnology companies and the promotion of the state are worthy endeavors. Mahoney also said he thought sponsors were helping to pay for the event.
“We should wine and dine all of those companies from Sweden and Europe and every place else to come and put their national headquarters in the state of Minnesota,” Mahoney said. “I think it’s a good idea actually.”
Holberg fired back.
“You might think it’s a good idea for the taxpayers of this state to wine and dine people on Lake Michigan on a luxury yacht, but many of the taxpayers of Minnesota can’t even afford a beer,” she said. “I think this is a wrong use of tax dollars. People can have much less opulent activities.”
DEED spokesman Blake Chaffee said he got a good chuckle listening to the debate. He said private businesses are actually picking up the entire tab.
“There are no tax dollars,” Chaffee said. “We go out and raise money for it. We have for 10 years.”
Chaffee explained that the reception is in conjunction with the annual Bio International Convention, which attracts companies, higher education institutions and government officials from around the world to promote their biotechnology efforts. He described it as a chance to promote Minnesota and to try to attract new businesses.