Dayton wants $190 million for flood aidRepublicans were surprised Tuesday when they learned Gov. Mark Dayton wants $190 million for disaster relief, but the Democratic governor said Tuesday that even the GOP’s lower figure is better than nothing.
By: Don Davis, Forum Communications
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — Republicans were surprised Tuesday when they learned Gov. Mark Dayton wants $190 million for disaster relief, but the Democratic governor said Tuesday that even the GOP’s lower figure is better than nothing.
The Dayton administration suggested the amount to pay local and state government costs related to June floods and other storm damage in Northeastern and central Minnesota. Republican legislative financial leaders said they had expected to see a $27 million package and expressed “sticker shock” with Dayton’s plan.
“I didn’t make this number up,” Dayton said after giving a speech at Farmfest, an annual gathering of farmers near Redwood Falls.
He said he wants the higher figure, but would negotiate with Republicans because “something is better than nothing.”
The proposal goes beyond the $27 million match for federal disaster aid to include assistance that ranges from $82 million in road and bridge fixes to debris removal, economic development grants, home repair loans and debt service for three flood-stricken cities. The state would take $55 million from a rainy-day account and issue bonds.
Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said she was expecting a smaller state aid request before a special session tentatively set for Aug. 24. Robling said the state won’t be able to make everyone affected by the June flooding whole.
“If we have a washout in our field, we don’t call the government to fix it,” Robling said. “It’s one of those things. This was a big disaster and there are a lot of consequences, but there is going to be some personal responsibility on private property as well.”
Dayton’s proposal came at a Tuesday meeting of a legislative working group that is to assemble a bill to pay for disaster relief.
Typically, the state pays local and state government costs not covered by the federal government. Federal payments take care of 75 percent of the costs.
So far, damage to public infrastructure tops $100 million, leading to Republicans expecting the $27 million figure.
The federal government rejected Minnesota’s claim for aid for individuals, and some lawmakers want to consider helping people and businesses affected by storms, both in June and early July.
“People are not asking to be restored whole,” said Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth. “They’re doing the best they can and they’re having some faith in their government to help them out.”
Gauthier added: “If we can’t depend on government to help us during disaster, when can we?”
House Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, raised concerns about drawing disaster money from the budget reserve because it could ultimately drag out repayment of money borrowed from schools. If the state has a surplus, the extra money has to go first to the rainy-day fund; any leftover money then goes toward paying back schools for delaying their state aid checks to erase previous state deficits.
“I don’t know that I like the dynamics of that,” Holberg said.
Most of the flooding occurred in Northeastern Minnesota, but storms affected 15 counties in several parts of the state in June. Other counties were hit by wind storms in early July.
The legislative group led by Holberg and Robling met for the first time Tuesday, hearing reports on how the state generally reacts to disasters. No decisions were made and no new meeting date was set.
Dayton and legislative leaders tentatively plan a special legislative session for Aug. 24. They have said a session will not be held until they agree on the relief bill and that the session will be focused on disasters.
Among requests in Dayton’s proposal:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.