Football season is here. Our local high school teams are doing two-a-day practices. Fantasy League coaches are replaying, analyzing and criticizing pre-season games, practices and rosters, studying every statistic in hopes of gaining an edge. Fans are reviewing their wardrobes, making sure they have the latest fashions in purple and white, or maroon and gold.
Meanwhile, our state’s leaders have been playing a little football, too – political football, that is — using much needed disaster aid to underscore their positions.
Our state Legislature needs to approve federal disaster aid of $17.8 million, to help cover damage to public facilities and infrastructure from the June storms. The Legislature must accept the funds and agree to pay 25 percent.
This money will go to 18 counties throughout the state that were hit hard by storms earlier this year. Rainfall totals of 5-8 inches were reported in many locations, causing flash floods and mudslides. Three of those counties — Hennepin, Houston and Morrison — are home to ECM Publishers communities.
Severe flash floods forced Houston County officials to declare a state of emergency during the June 20-26 storms.
In Hennepin County, hundreds of thousands of homeowners were without power for days. Broken trees dotted every street from Wayzata to Minnetonka to Golden Valley. It took weeks to clean up the debris throughout the central metro area.
In Morrison County, heavy rains and winds pulled down trees, which in turn took out many power lines. Flooding also was an issue.
Minnesota’s leaders quickly agreed federal aid was warranted and should be accepted. Gov. Dayton suggested calling a special legislative session Sept. 9 to officially accept the disaster funds and approve the state’s portion of expenses.
Then, the football game began.
Dayton tossed out the idea of repealing one of the business-to-business taxes enacted in the final minutes of the 2013 legislative session. It seems that everyone agreed the most urgent was the repeal of a sales tax on equipment repair, including farm machinery. Republicans and DFLers were quick to say that one has to go.
Republicans then threw another set of demands into the game: Repeal all of the business-to-business taxes enacted in the final hours of the 2013 session. One taxed purchases of telecommunications equipment, and the other taxed warehouse and storage services.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the United for Jobs Coalition piled on, with swift and vocal efforts to urge repeal of those taxes. Republican legislative leaders agreed, insisting tax repeals be part of the session’s agenda.
Gov. Dayton cried foul, saying if the legislative leaders did not agree beforehand, he would not call the special session.
Fortunately, the governor and legislative leaders came to an agreement Aug. 21, to limit the session only to disaster relief and leave the tax issues for 2014.
We applaud our leaders for this compromise decision. Now they will meet quickly, take the necessary votes, and let the federal funds help the counties that suffered during those massive summer storms.
While we support in concept repealing the business-to-business taxes, the conversation needs to be more extensive. Those taxes were estimated to bring in $310 million. Are alternative revenue sources needed? Are additional budget cuts needed? Can funds be moved from one area to another? Those are discussions for the 2014 legislative session.
Our leaders’ decision to end the political football game was the right one. Let’s approve the disaster aid funding, and reconvene in February 2014 for a comprehensive debate on sales tax issues. —An opinion by the ECM Publishers Editorial Board.