Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislative leaders have tentatively agreed on a plan for disaster relief for flood-stricken southern Minnesota and some help for other communities hit by tornadoes, according to one legislator informed of the discussions.
"We have reached agreement with the governor, a tentative agreement, this afternoon," said Rep. Kory Kath, DFL-Owatonna, whose district was among areas hit hard by floods in September.
The tentative package will form the backbone of a plan that the Legislature will consider in a special session, possibly as early as Thursday. The governor is waiting for the federal government to issue a disaster declaration for stricken areas of Minnesota before calling the session. Total federal and state funding could exceed $200 million.
Kath, the chief author of the disaster recovery legislation in the House, said he understood an early Tuesday afternoon meeting between the governor, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, both DFLers from Minneapolis, resolved some points in contention in earlier talks.
Among those was the use of new bonding money to set aside land for flood mitigation. Kath said $10 million would be spent under the deal. The governor and legislative leaders also agreed to spend $750,000 for planning to rebuild public buildings in Wadena destroyed by a tornado.
The total cost of the package to the state wasn't immediately known, but earlier talks put the figure at $55 million to $65 million, with money coming from the general fund and bonding. Federal disaster declaration would bring additional federal money, likely bringing the total spending to over $100 million, Kath said.
For much or most of the state spending, the federal government could provide three times as much money, meaning the total relief effort could exceed $200 million, said Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, the Senate Minority Leader. The final figure depends on how much of the state spending qualifies for such federal matches.
The governor's office has said it wouldn't comment on the status of the flood relief plan until after the disaster declaration.