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Flood-relief plan sent to Ventura

By Ashley H. Grant

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- With uncharacteristic speed, leaders of the GOP-led House and DFL-controlled Senate crafted a plan on Saturday that would provide $35.4 million in aid to victims of flooding in northwestern Minnesota.

"The governor challenged the legislative leaders to get their ducks in a row," said House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, a Republican from Eagan. "We've got our ducks in a row. Now, he should stop ducking the issue and start asserting some leadership."

House and Senate leaders will take the proposal to Gov. Jesse Ventura's office this morning and ask him to call a special session within the next 10 days.

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Ventura spokesman John Wodele said the plan was a very encouraging development. "We'll analyze the plan next week, and if it needs further negotiation, we will proceed in that manner," he said Saturday night.

The centerpiece of the plan is a full $8.3 million state match to leverage federal disaster aid.

Normally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides 75 percent of the aid, with the state matching 15 percent and the local government paying the remaining 10 percent.

Under this plan, the state would cover the whole 25 percent match required to secure the federal money.

Other major provisions in the plan include:

$1 million in property tax relief for homes and businesses that suffered at least 50 percent damage.

$6 million in state aid to farmers who lost at least half their crops.

$3 million in other business assistance.

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$4 million in other housing assistance.

$2 million in public infrastructure assistance.

$5 million in local road and bridge help.

The proposal should help residents in flood-stricken areas such as Roseau, Warroad, Ada and Mahnomen get through the end of the year, lawmakers said.

"We recognize there will be some longer-term issues that will have to be looked at," said Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, a Democrat from Erskine.

But, he added, "this sends a good strong message of hope and certainty to those communities that we want them to rebuild their houses there, rebuild their businesses there and stay in northwestern Minnesota."

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