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Rochester 'adamantly opposed' to bill tying DMC funding to Zip Rail project

Rochester 'adamantly opposed' to bill tying DMC funding to Zip Rail project

(THE MED CITY BEAT) - The city of Rochester is pushing back against a Minnesota House bill that would merge funding for the Destination Medical Center initiative with opposition to the Zip Rail project.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-21B) introduced a bill Monday that would grant the city greater flexibility on hows it pays for DMC-related expenses; but only if every relevant agency in the state squashes a proposal to build a high-speed commuter rail connecting downtown Rochester to the Twin Cities.

City council president Randy Staver voiced his frustration for the bill Tuesday afternoon at a meeting for the Greater MN Economic and Workforce Development Policy Committee

"The city of Rochester is adamantly opposed to connecting the two topics," said Staver. "However you may feel about Zip Rail, that is a discussion for another day and DMC should not be handcuffed with that decision."

Graphic: Final Scoping Decision Document

Graphic: Final Scoping Decision Document

Drazkowski recently introduced a bill to block funding for the Zip Rail, but this is the first time he has connected the project to DMC. Both proposed routes for the rail would run through Drazkowski's district, where there is significant opposition to the project.

Photo: Steve Drazkowski

"The people are opposed to [Zip Rail] and because of that, I felt compelled to come forward to act on their behalf," Drazkowski recently told the Post-Bulletin.

The bill was co-authored by Rep. Greg Davids (R-28B), who chairs the Houses Taxes Committee. While that increases the likelihood the bill will get a committee hearing, it's chances in the DFL-controlled Senate are slim to none.

Unlike the DMC initiative, The Zip Rail proposal is still in the early stages of planning and has not secured any long-term funding. Early estimates put the project at about $2 to $4 billion.

A bill authored by Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-25B) to only fix the city's funding formula passed the Greater Minnesota committee on Tuesday.

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The city of Rochester is requesting two things from the Legislature: that planning costs be included as part of the city's $128 million contribution and that the city be allowed to use various funding mechanisms, like a sales tax, to avoid raising property taxes.

"I would note that the requested changes do not affect the state funding at all," said Staver. "They are only meant to include all of the expenses associated with the development and execution of the plan and allow us the latitude to cover those expenses with the funding sources you’ve provided."

The first DMC public forum will be held Feb. 23 at the Mayo Civic Center.

 
 

(Cover photo: File / Randy Staver / The Med City Beat)

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