ST. PAUL -- Following the Senate's lead, Minnesota House Republicans on Friday released their own plan for helping northwestern Minnesota flood victims.
The House and Senate proposals are similar, with the biggest difference being the House plan would provide about $10 million in aid to farmers who lost their whole season of crops.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, said he was open to including agriculture relief as part of an aid package. Minnesota's congressional delegation is also going after farm money from the federal government, Moe said.
Other parts of the $34 million House plan include:
* A property tax abatement for home and business owners who suffered severe damage to their property;
* State aid for residents whose homes suffered severe damage or were destroyed by flooding;
* Financial assistance to local governments to help rebuild their community's main street businesses;
* Funding to rebuild damaged roads, bridges and other public infrastructure;
* Money to help clean up flood-related petroleum spills;
* Assistance to communities for the most urgent future flood mitigation projects.
Overall, Republicans would spend about $34 million, much of it from money lawmakers left in reserve at the end of last session.
"We want to make sure that we take care of the most urgent needs right away," said House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon.
The plan outlined earlier by Senate DFLers would send between $20 million and $30 million in aid to Roseau, Warroad, Mahnomen and other northwest Minnesota communities.
Some of its key provisions include: allowing local governments to raise local taxes beyond levy limits imposed by the state, using the state's Petrofund to buy out businesses and homes destroyed by fuel oil spills, and redirecting unused bond funds to pay for flood mitigation efforts.
Moe and Sviggum planned to meet Saturday to reconcile the two proposals. Both lawmakers said Friday that the differences aren't significant.
The next step will be to take the agreed-upon proposal next week to Gov. Jesse Ventura, who will decide if and when to call a special session.
He has said repeatedly that lawmakers don't have their "ducks in a row" and he's hesitant to call them back within the next month, no matter how much criticism he takes.
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