Last week, Minnesota legislative leaders agreed to hold a Special Session on Monday, September 9 to address disaster relief in eighteen counties that were hit by a series of severe storms, high winds and flooding between June 20 and 26. Counties covered by the declaration, eight of which are in the district I represent, are Big Stone, Wilkin, Grant, Douglas, Pope, Stevens, Stearns, Traverse, Benton, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Hennepin, Houston, McLeod, Morrison, Sibley, and Swift.
We have a rich tradition of supporting Minnesota communities and nothing should stand in the way of Minnesotans receiving the support they need when extraordinary disasters hit. I have reached out to my counties for feedback and have learned that one county experienced $30,000 worth of damages, another over $75,000 of damage, and another over $125,000. Even though some requests are not huge dollar amounts, thankfully, the state is interested in stepping up to help our local units of government rebuild specific areas of damage for their community.
The total damage estimate for Minnesota from these storms is $17,880,840. President Barack Obama signed a federal disaster declaration that paves the way for federal aid for recovery and rebuilding efforts. However, it must be partly matched by a $4.5 million state contribution which requires legislative authorization. These funds will be available to local governments for their emergency work including repair or replacement of facilities damaged in the storms, debris removal, protective measures, and repair of roads, bridges and water control facilities. Funds will be limited to public and utility infrastructure and no individual assistance, which is usually covered by private insurance, has been requested or authorized.
During the course of discussions on what would also be included in the Special Session, Republican leaders suggested repealing three newly-created taxes; the equipment repair tax, telecommunications equipment tax and warehousing tax. During negotiations, Democrat leaders and the Governor would not agree to consider these three new widely unpopular taxes to be a part of the Special Session. They have refused to compromise and stood in the way of doing what is right for hardworking families and taxpayers. Republicans opposed the push for these new taxes by DFL legislators last May by telling them these taxes are unpopular, harmful to businesses and will negatively affect all Minnesotans who consume products. Unfortunately, we will all have to wait until the 2014 Legislative Session to have another Republican push to repeal these new DFL led taxes on farmers, small businesses and Minnesotans who consume food – which is all of us!
I encourage and appreciate citizen input. I can be reached by telephone at (651) 296-3826 or (855) 407-7386, by e-mail at email@example.com, or via mail at 107 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.
Senator Torrey Westrom
107 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155