The House provided final approval for a bill to replenish our state’s Disaster Assistance Contingency Account which is available to help with emergencies such as the storm and flooding issues. We already have flooding issues in some parts of the state.
The contingency fund was established several years ago to allow state agencies at the governor’s direction to respond to natural disasters without the governor having call the Legislature back to St. Paul to authorize special disaster relief dollars.
The final bill we passed only contained $10 million to replenish the account. I and many others supported adding $20 million to the account. I am concerned that almost $3 million will almost immediately exit the fund for payments owed for flooding and other natural disaster events that occurred last year.
That effort was defeated on the floor of the house, primarily because it would have reduced the dollars available for new state government spending programs that my friends across the aisle and the governor desire.
Going forward, we all hope and pray we don’t have any major disasters this year but, should they occur, I would much rather have the necessary funds already set aside to respond and not take a chance on running short. The governor now has the bill on his desk and is expected to sign it.
We are working on the final spending targets for the state’s next two-year budget. The governor has issued his revised budget proposal and now the majority parties in the House and Senate have followed suit with their budget plans this week.
Both the House and Governor’s budget proposals include huge $3 billion plus tax increases and a major increase in overall state spending. The Senate is looking at tax-neutral approach which would fund state government agencies at appropriate levels without imposing new taxes.
I agree with my colleagues in the Senate. We have enough tax revenue coming in to continue to properly fund state government agencies. There is no need for $3 billion in new taxes. Raising taxes and continuing measures that increase by about $700 million dollars year Minnesotan’s health care costs is not justified.
The challenge is to reconcile the three proposals into a finished product so we can get a new two-year state budget in place during the next six weeks of session days we have left.
Be safe and enjoy this great spring weather.