Scores of Minnesota communities ravaged by floods and tornadoes got a major boost Monday as the Legislature held a special session to approve $80 million in funding for repairs and reconstruction. Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the bill.
Most of the state money will go for flood relief in 21 southern Minnesota counties, with the remainder helping communities hit by tornadoes in 13 counties.
The package focuses on fixing public property like buildings and roads, not providing assistance to individual homeowners or businesses. The federal government last week declined a request for grants for individuals. Over 600 homes were severely damaged.
But the state says it will receive an additional $19 million from the federal Small Business Administration for low-interest loans to individual homeowners, freeing up an additional $4 million for loans under a state program.
The House passed the disaster relief 131-0, and the Senate approved it 66-0.
The bills include language that assumes that the arrival of federal stimulus money next year for medical assistance will provide cash to pay for the disaster relief.
"Nothing in this bill will contribute to the budget being unbalanced," said Sen. Ann Lynch, DFL-Rochester, a sponsor of the legislation.
Some DFLers used the occasion to tweak Republicans for their past reluctance to rely on federal stimulus money.
"Government can do good things," said Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia. "This is an example."
But the relief from natural disasters gave legislators an unusually non-partisan cause to agree on.
"I do want to echo my support," said Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester.
Combined with expected federal disaster relief, the total disaster relief package could total $140 million.

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