Dayton says chief of staff will work on Mayo Clinic plan

Gov. Dayton announced today that his chief of staff will take a lead role in talks with the Mayo Clinic about its plans to expand in Rochester.

“I’m asking my chief of staff, Tina Smith, to spearhead the administration’s role in that,” Dayton said when responding to criticism by some area lawmakers that he wasn’t doing enough to get the project done.

The Mayo Clinic is seeking more than $500 million in taxpayer money over the next 20 years to make infrastructure improvements in Rochester. Clinic officials say they want the state to commit to the project before they spend $3 billion to expand in the city.

The plan has been met with resistance in the Minnesota House. The House taxes committee chair, Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, says she has concerns about the financing plan and asked the clinic to come up with another one.

Dayton, DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen and DFL Senate Majority Tom Bakk all say they want to do something for the Mayo Clinic but have not agreed on the best financing mechanism to get the project done.

Smith is no stranger to controversial and big projects. She was instrumental in ushering through the Vikings stadium legislation during last year’s session.

She says she intends to start meeting with Mayo Clinic officials and others soon.