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  Thursday April 17th, 2014    

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Disaster relief session held (09/11/2013)
From: Rep. Steve Drazkowski

On September 9, Governor Dayton summoned all state lawmakers back to St. Paul for an unnecessary special session to deal with disaster relief.

Donít get me wrong: I have no problem allocating disaster funds to the communities in the 18 Minnesota counties that are recovering from the storm damage that occurred in late June.

I do have a problem with wasting nearly $100,000 in taxpayer dollars to hold a special session when the money could have been distributed without a formal legislative rubber stamp in September. The stateís portion of the disaster relief match could have been paid weeks ago if Governor Dayton had simply led, as opposed to trying to use a special session for personal political gain.

The storm damage total was roughly $18 million, of which Minnesota is responsible for a 25 percent match of roughly $4.5 million. The remaining 75 percent will be allocated through the federal government.

According to nonpartisan House fiscal analysts, communities suffering cash flow issues due to repair costs could get 75 percent reimbursement before any legislation passed. Local Government Aid could also have been advanced to most communities to cover the 25 percent share until the Legislature passed disaster relief. There is also a contingent appropriation in the state government bill of $500,000 that the Governor can use as a patch for communities with cash shortfalls.

Another state law allows the option of an agency transferring some funds. For instance, it gives the Department of Public Safety the ability to temporarily transfer an available balance from one area to another that can be used to address statewide disasters.

So if state law allows the transfer, why not do it?

The only reason is political gamesmanship.

After hearing from irate farmers who are now paying sales tax on equipment repair Ė as well as a dozen other tax and fee increases resulting from Democratic-approved legislation four months ago Ė Governor Dayton grudgingly admitted that forcing farmers to pay more was a mistake. This after claiming he had no idea that provision was in the bill, even though his administration worked on it and he signed it.

Dayton and his fellow DFL legislative leaders, who are also taking a pounding over this tax increase nonsense, wanted to repeal just this one provision during special session Ė along with disaster relief.

Ironically, in order to partially fix this mistake Democrats wanted to use money intended to repay schools. Thatís right, instead of cutting some of the $2 billion in new, wasteful spending proposals they enacted this year, they wanted our schools to take the hit.

During negotiations, Republican leaders offered three opportunities for Democrats to fix their mistakes from last session and Democrats refused.

We advocated for full repeal of the equipment repair tax, telecommunications tax and the warehousing tax but Democrats ultimately could not even commit to repeal one. Once again, Democrats refused to compromise and stood in the way of doing whatís right for hardworking taxpayers.

When he didnít get his way, Governor Dayton took his ball and went home, then called an unnecessary special session- considering we had other ways to pay for our portion of disaster relief.

By using a little common sense, Minnesota could have come up with $4.5 million by looking under the proverbial couch cushions. But that would have taken leadership, and on that qualification Governor Dayton has failed us all once again.

 

 

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