Borrowing plan snags session talks
ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty and top lawmakers were closer to settling terms of a special legislative session to aid flood-stricken southeastern Minnesota, but Friday could not agree how to pay for some of the relief.
The Republican governor and leaders of the DFL-controlled Legislature were odds over whether to borrow funds for some of the flood relief or to pay with cash.
They are scheduled to resume discussions Monday morning, with the possibility of a special session next week.
Also on Friday, Pawlenty outlined $32 million in state aid he authorized through executive powers for a variety of flood cleanup and relief efforts, including housing, business and natural resources projects.
That funding will be taken from other areas of the state budget, but he did not say specifically what programs would be impacted.
Pawlenty said the $32 million will help the flood-ravaged communities, but additional assistance from the Legislature is needed.
The governor's announcement included a letter to Pogemiller and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, highlighting flood-related issues on which Pawlenty said an agreement is needed before he picks a date for a one-day special session.
The Minnesota Constitution allows only governors to call special sessions, while only the Legislature can end them.
"It shouldn't be too much of a problem," Pawlenty said of agreeing on a flood aid bill. "Once we get those agreements in place, then we'll go ahead and schedule a special session."
Those issues included deciding to how much cash should be spent for the cleanup efforts. Senate Democrats have pegged that need at $100 million, a majority of which would be reimbursed by the federal government.
But the largest snag in the discussions involved whether the aid package should include the option of state-borrowed funds for flood-related public works projects and for the Interstate 35W bridge work, if it is needed.
Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said the state has enough cash available to deal with flood assistance and the bridge cleanup and reconstruction.
"We have money sitting on the bottom line," Pogemiller said. "Use it."
Pawlenty spokesman Alex Carey said the governor believes "we should use all the tools in the tool kit" to help flood victims. Previous flood relief efforts included borrowed funds, he added.
Sen. Keith Langseth, who leads a committee handling public works borrowing, said he would prefer that either the flood relief is handled with cash or a larger bonding bill that also funds local bridge repairs is considered.
"He just keeps putting things off," Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said of Pawlenty.