Pawlenty lays out what he wants in a special sessionby Sea Stachura, Minnesota Public Radio
Gov. Pawlenty says he would likely call a special Legislative session to help aid local governments and residents affected by the recent disasters. Speaking in Rochester on Tuesday, the governor says he wants more of an understanding with the DFL before he moves ahead. But DFLers say they're having a hard time getting the governor to talk.
Rochester, Minn. — Gov. Pawlenty says he would like to call a special session soon. However, before he'll do that, he says three issues need to be agreed upon before the session.
Number one on the governors list is a $200 million bonding bill. It would focus just on the public works needs of the disaster area, any remaining dollars would assist road and bridge repair.
"Number two," Pawlenty told reporters, "(is) a cash appropriation that the state could use in the area of housing and other areas to support flood relief efforts, in a flexible fund. Three: a property tax relief and then if possible an agreement on a comprehensive transportation bill."
Pawlenty says he's more interested in increasing individual property tax relief than increasing local government aid. He says he believes DFL leaders will want the opposite. Pawlenty believes there will be other areas of friction, as well.
"We've got senior leaders on the DFL side saying we're not going to do the bonding bill I just described," he says. "We're going to do the bonding bill I vetoed from last session and bring it back in its entirety, and not going to focus as I just suggested. And then we are substantially apart on the transportation bill."
Last session's bonding bill included aid for a crime lab, a convention center and a university research facility. Pawlenty says he is concerned that DFLers will resurrect the transportation package he vetoed last session. That bill included a nickel increase in the gas tax. It also increased some sales taxes and tab taxes. Pawlenty says that's not a good idea.
But House Speaker Margaret Kelliher says she believes her party and the governor share the same goals. She says the DFL-majority House wants a bonding package that is good for Minnesotans.
"In terms of being able to discuss that package, we are trying to find a place to discuss," she says. "We are trying to find a place to start with the governor. And a place to start is the vetoed bonding bill to talk about what should be in or out of the bill. If you don't put it on paper in this business, and get down to detail it's easy for folks to misunderstand what each other are saying."
In regard to the transportation bill, Kelliher says says she's heard from many Republican House members who've said they want to pass a transportation bill during the special session.
"I think it would be good for Minnesota to have a comprehensive transportation bill in a special session because we have such a need," Kelliher says. "By the Department of Transportation's own estimate, they are $2.4 billion annually behind, so the sooner we can begin, the sooner we begin to play catch up here."
Kelliher says she's interested in seeing an increase in the gas tax, income tax relief for low-income residents to offset that increase and mass transit funding. But, she says, she'd prefer a transportation bill with the governor's signature.
While Gov. Pawlenty was meeting with local leaders in the flood disaster areas he also announced that the types of FEMA disaster aid have been expanded.
Originally individual needs and emergency measures were covered by FEMA aid.
Now, everything from debris removal, to fixing levees and buildings will be included in the reimbursement package. Still, local officials are asking for immediate funding relief from the state.
- All Things Considered, 08/28/2007, 5:20 p.m.