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BLOOMINGTON, MN-Local and regional officials are continuing their opposition to a tax rebate sought by the Mall of America for its $2 billion expansion plan, as owner Triple Five Group plans on again pushing the state legislature to allow the measure. Language included in the Senate tax bill asks to allow the mall to skip paying into a regional “fiscal disparities pool,” basically a tax that helps keep up undeveloped communities’ coffers. The mall is looking for a 20-year abatement of this tax, for a total $50 million.

The rebate, and other TIF and local funds, would reportedly help pay for a $200 million parking ramp and $150 million in other infrastructure. The rest of the expansion would be adding 5.6 million sf to the existing 4.2 million sf property, and would include a new Bass Pro Shops, hotels, restaurants, a 6,000-seat auditorium and a Great Wolf Lodge.

Local officials, regional groups and even Gov. Tim Pawlenty have said that the mall should not be granted an abatement, even though the mall reportedly pays about $50 million in taxes each year. Pawlenty vetoed a tax bill last year that included a similar rebate for the mall.

Kent Warden, executive director of the Greater Minneapolis chapter of Building Owners and Managers Association, tells GlobeSt.com that allowing the mall to gain a rebate would be unfair to all other developers and owners in the state. “This pool is designed to level out the tax base across different municipal jurisdictions, to reduce the bias of one community toward another,” he says. “It was never designed to be a subsidy program, a source of cash for developers.”

He says that programs like TIF funding have safeguards in place that force developers to provide proof that a project cannot go forward without the incentives. This pool subsidy would not require that proof, Warden says.

However, mall attorney Bill Griffith tells GlobeSt.com that the expansion, which would take about four years, cannot go forward without all incentives in place. “There is a precedent for this, buildings downtown get a rebate on this pool all the time,” he says. “There’s no other project in the Twin Cities that benefits the region like the mall, it’s a clear benefit to the region.” Labor unions have also come out for the expansion, since mall officials say the project will create 7,000 new jobs for the area.

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