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The Disaster Relief Working Group reviewed a draft emergency response bill compiled by the Dayton administration, and a report on past disaster response.
(Published Aug 8, 2012)
The legislative Disaster Relief Working Group convened on Aug. 7 to consider a report evaluating past state disaster responses and to review a draft bill compiled by the administration to address the June flooding events in northeastern Minnesota and other areas of the state and the early July windstorm that impacted north central Minnesota.
The Dayton administration’s draft bill to address the June and July weather events recommends a $189.9 million state response package, with the first $27 million used to make the necessary state and local match to the FEMA disaster funding requirement.
Several legislators seemed surprised by the magnitude of the proposal, perhaps because of the publicity surrounding the required $27 million state match to receive FEMA funds. However, many legislators acknowledged the extent of the damage in the northeast and other areas of the state. Although a direct comparison to other natural disasters and state responses is difficult, the 2007 flooding event in southeastern Minnesota resulted in a state funding package of roughly $149 million.
Although a detailed summary of the bill was not available, the proposed package includes roughly $98 million in bond financing, with roughly $30 million in general obligation bonds for a variety of programs through the Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Public Facilities Authority, the Housing Finance Agency, the Department of Natural Resources, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, as well as the departments of Agriculture, Education, and Health.
The package includes an additional $30 million in transportation funding bonds to assist local units of government with damaged roads and bridges and $38 million in trunk highway bonds to fund repairs to state highways.
The package would also use the $26.5 million in general fund surplus that remained on the state’s general fund bottom line at the end of the 2012 legislative session and an additional $55.3 million that would be drawn from the state’s budget reserve account.
The proposal includes a program to assist cities with the loss of tax base due to the flood. Under the plan, which is similar to the state’s response to the 2007 southeastern Minnesota floods, any city that experiences at least a 5 percent loss of tax base (net tax capacity in assessment year 2012) due to the impact of the floods would be eligible to receive an aid amount in 2014 equal to the tax base loss multiplied by the city’s 2012 tax rate. Under the draft bill, this aid is a one-time payment that would not extend beyond the 2014 calendar year.
The bill also would allow affected businesses and other damaged properties to remit their second-half property tax payments by Dec. 28, rather than Oct. 15. To qualify for the late payment option, the property owner would have had to make their first-half payment on time. If the property owner fails to make the second-half payment by Dec. 28, interest and penalties would accrue from Oct. 15 (for most property owners).
The draft bill also includes approximately $7.9 million in financial assistance to address the impacts of the July windstorm that affected parts of the counties of Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, and Cass.
Legislative auditor’s report
The working group also reviewed a report on disaster response conducted by the Office of the Legislative Auditor. The report concludes that the state’s response to past emergencies have not been handled identically, which has resulted in confusion among local units of government, homeowners, and businesses about the expectations of the state in the disaster response process. The report recommendations include:
With a possible special session as early as Aug. 24, the Disaster Response Working Group is expected to meet again and develop and refine recommendations for the state’s response. Updates with additional information on the legislation and special session will be provided in upcoming editions of the Cities Bulletin.
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