Two new proposals have renewed a debate among state leaders on how to pay for the estimated $500 million in damage caused by last summer’s riots.
Senate Republicans introduced a bill to prevent Minnesota’s disaster relief fund from being used to rebuild cities that underwent destruction from the riots surrounding George Floyd’s death.
After requests for federal disaster assistance were rejected, Gov. Tim Walz wired $11.7 million from the State Disaster Assistance Contingency Account to Hennepin County to help with riot recovery efforts. According to Republicans, that figure represents 70% of the total sum that was in the account.
The bill introduced by Senate Republicans clarifies the definition of a “disaster,” which currently encompasses natural catastrophes like tornadoes, storms, earthquakes, snowstorms, and a number of other natural disasters.
“A disaster does not include a catastrophe caused by civil unrest,” reads the new addition proposed by Republican senators.
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, released a statement supporting the bill, claiming the governor “continues to circumvent the Legislature at every opportunity he can.”
“The governor’s actions are divisive. In an attempt to rebuild the Twin Cities, Gov. Walz’s plan leaves Greater Minnesota on the tab for the unrest he failed to stop in Minneapolis and St. Paul this summer,” he said.
Additionally, Walz’s use of disaster funds for civil unrest could leave the state unprepared to deal with an actual natural disaster, Ingebrigtsen said.
His statement notes that an extensive report on last summer’s riots points to the fact that “the worst of the damage could have easily been avoided had city and state leaders acted faster and more decisively.”
Now, the governor’s $52.4 billion budget proposal, released Tuesday, calls for $150 million in bonds to build back businesses destroyed by rioters in May.
Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, called the proposal a “$150 million bailout” paid for by Greater Minnesota.
“Why should the people of Greater Minnesota have to pay for this, while already being taxed more?” he said.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, applauded Walz’s budget, saying Minnesota has “abundant natural resources, thriving corporations and nonprofits, a talented population, and higher income per capita than most states.”
“We can and should use the budget to invest in Minnesota and in Minnesotans to ensure economic opportunity for everyone,” she said.
Walz’s budget also seeks to increase the corporate tax rate from 9.8% to 11.25% and spend $50 million on a small business loan program. The budget cuts 0.3%, or only $150 million, of spending over the next two years.