Special session resolves storm damage; tax talk left for next year

7:17 PM, Sep 9, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A $4.5 million disaster relief package for 18 Minnesota counties sailed through the House and Senate on Monday in a half-day special session.

As in most disaster relief situations, there was bipartisan support for helping the counties with disaster damages dealt to them after a week of rain, wind, and power outages back in June.

"It was about a week of just day after day, thunderstorms formed and came through with torrential rains of strong winds and eventually over time the cumulative effect of that moisture coming again and again caused flooding," Joe Kelly, Deputy Director MN Emergency Management said following a hearing.

Mother Nature did $18 million in damage. Federal funds paid for a decent chunk of the disaster relief.

There was also a great divide between the political parties at the state capitol. Republicans wanted to repeal taxes passed during the last legislative session.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, a Democrat, said there wasn't enough money to take any tax other than the farm machinery tax off the table.

"They decided they couldn't get it all, they weren't going to take any of it. The farm equipment tax could have been done," he told reporters.

Senate Minority Leader, Republican David Hann, countered.

"It's a distinction without a difference. If you're going to repeal the tax, repeal the tax. Help everybody. Don't carve out one group," he said during dueling press events.

While the Senate unanimously approved the disaster relief, there was a lone no vote in the House. It came from Rep. Alice Hausman of St. Paul. She represents Ramsey County, which narrowly missed the federal threshold for relief.

"$1.42 million is going to have to be paid for by property taxpayers in Ramsey County as a result of the storm. We helped some people in the state, but we didn't help Ramsey County," she told KARE 11.

Following the House vote, leaders once again talked taxes.

"Frankly, the Democrats think that those things can wait and we think that's unfortunate," Republican Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said.

Democrats argued that it's not the right time to be sorting through taxes.

"It's not the best way to do lawmaking and I think we did right by Minnesotans today," DFL Speaker of the House Paul Thissen concluded.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )

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