The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 17, 2012

Senjem blames Mankato lobbyist for civic center bonding failure

— Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem told a newspaper he blames a lobbying firm for the failure to get bonding money for outstate civic centers in Rochester and St. Cloud — saying the firm was lobbying for Mankato and began “creating all kinds of hoopla and political difficulty.”

Senjem, a Rochester Republican, also told a group of Rochester business leaders that $47.5 million in grant money for economic development put in the bonding bill is geared toward the Mayo Civic Center expansion.

Senjem’s comments are in a story reported Thursday by the Rochester Post Bulletin.

Rochester, St. Cloud and Mankato were all seeking bonding money for civic center expansions and renovations. But in the Senate version of the bonding bill, which Senjem helped craft, Mankato was not included.

In the final bonding bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton, none of the three civic center projects received funding.

Senjem blamed Rochester’s lobbyist, according to the Post Bulletin. He said the strategy had been to include the Mayo Civic Center in the bonding bill because the design work already had been done and to include the St. Cloud Civic Center because that community had put money toward the project.

But he said the plan was to leave out the Mankato civic center because no design work had been done.

Senjem said Rochester’s lobbyist, Flaherty & Hood of St. Paul, who also lobbies for Mankato, began “creating all kinds of hoopla and political difficulty,” according to the newspaper.

“I knew from that moment Mayo Civic Center was not going to end up in any bonding bill because we might have been able to do two (civic centers), but we weren’t going to do three in this bill.”

While no specific funding was included for civic centers, the bonding bill did provide $47.5 million in grant money for economic development, to be distributed by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.

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