Review of $190 million in aid came before a likely Aug. 24 special session.
"Sticker shock" disappeared from the vocabulary Thursday as a legislative panel took a closer look at Gov. Mark Dayton's $190 million flood-relief package and expressed hopes for quick action.
The second meeting of a legislative work group -- whose co-chair expressed "sticker shock" last week -- focused on details of the governor's proposal to fix roads and bridges, repair homes and businesses and put the iconic swinging bridge of Jay Cooke State Park back together. The governor also wants to repair park facilities, trails and waterways.
While Republican leaders may not be in complete agreement with the governor's plan yet, they are hopeful they can meet in special session Aug. 24 to approve a flood-relief package for Duluth, northeastern Minnesota and other hard-hit areas.
"We're still thinking in terms of the 24th in terms of getting this done," Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said after the meeting.
The panel's co-chair, Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, said while she has questions about the uses of the money and where it will come from, she too is moving toward an Aug. 24 session.
"I think that's very doable," she said. "We want to make sure the money we appropriate is going to those most in need of flood and disaster relief."
Holberg said, for example, that the state received a request for flooring for a home day care that she believes was an unreasonable taxpayer expense. "Nobody needs $50,000 for 1,000 feet of flooring for a home day care," she said.
Torrential downpours in June caused flash flooding and widespread damage in Duluth, northeastern Minnesota and parts of south-central Minnesota in mid-June, resulting in declaration of a major disaster area for 15 counties and three tribal governments. In addition to flood relief, the governor wants an additional $7.9 million to address windstorms in north-central counties July 2 to 4 that damaged trees and power lines.
There were no deaths resulting from the flash flooding, but the state's preliminary estimates showed damage to 1,700 homes, including 154 with major damage and 17 destroyed.
Dayton said Wednesday he hopes to reach a written agreement soon with legislators on a brief, single-subject session. On Thursday, Senjem said he shared the governor's hopes for a quick special session, free of other topics that could bog them down. "In my view, it's going to be a flood-related, limited agenda, generally speaking, pre-agreed to, and that's the way you do these things," he said.
The panel expressed concerns that a $20 million fund administered by the Department of Employment and Economic Development for damaged businesses is not narrowly targeted to flood damage. Language inserted into the bill says the funds "may be used to prevent the loss of jobs or other catastrophes," which Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, questioned as being "too loose."
Kent Lokkesmoe of the Department of Natural Resources told the panel that while the piers of the historic swinging bridge at Jay Cooke State Park are usable, the bridge was washed away by the raging St. Louis River and will cost $1.8 million to replace. He said it can cost as much as $1 million to replace one culvert on the popular Willard Munger State Trail, which had significant damage. The bill includes $10 million to buy out or relocate severely damaged structures and $17 million for conservation easements and projects to control erosion and sedimentation.
But damage was great and money is limited, said John Jaschke, executive director of the state Board of Water and Soil Resources.
"There are going to be many, many sites that are not going to be fixed," he said.
Jim Ragsdale 651-925-5042