ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – On Monday, Governor Mark Dayton signed an emergency bill into law, sending disaster aid to Minnesota counties hit hard by a week of severe summer storms in June.
Eighteen Minnesota counties – including the largest, Hennepin County – were hit by high winds, torrential rains and widespread flooding during the five days of storms.
Damage was heavy in the southeastern part of the state, where lawmakers – including Republican Rep. Greg Davids of Preston – thanked Minnesotans for their help.
“The day after the disaster I took a tour of the district and saw the devastation,” Davids said. “Saw businesses floating down the Root River, literally. Seeing roads that were washed out, bridges that were washed out.”
The special session vote to send out $4.5 million in disaster aid was overwhelming, but Republicans – including Sen. Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen – also pushed for repealing a controversial warehouse tax, calling it a “made-made disaster” for business.
“This is hurting Minnesota families,” Ortman said. “It’s hurting Minnesota’s business, it’s hurting our economy and we should be fixing it.”
Gov. Dayton called the GOP efforts “political,” saying he’d consider the request only if Republicans provide a corresponding list of budget cuts to make up for the lost tax revenues.
The one-day special disaster session could cost the state $50,000 – the 6th disaster session in recent years.
House Speaker Paul Thissen, a Democrat, is proposing a special disaster fund instead of more special sessions.
“We should have mechanisms in place so the legislature doesn’t have to meet every time we have a disaster to get the resources out to these communities that need help,” Thissen said.