- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Gov. Mark Dayton intends to ask Minnesota legislators to quickly approve a relief package related to last summer’s severe flooding because an existing disaster-aid account ran dry this week.

Administration officials estimated Thursday that at least $8.7 million is needed to cover a gap between the cost of recovery and the disaster assistance already supplied by the state and federal governments. Dayton told reporters a day earlier that he hoped an emergency bill will pass in the opening weeks of a legislative session that starts Jan. 6.

“I don’t think there will be any question in people’s mind that it’s imperative,” Dayton said. “To me it’s pretty cut and dried.”

Minnesota had relied on a $3 million contingency account and was able to shift other dollars around. But Dayton’s administration said that money is tapped out and more can’t be allotted without legislative consent.

The new money would supply the mandatory 25 percent match for federal emergency aid to 37 counties and three tribal governments. It’s also designed to assist three county governments - Dakota, Morrison and Washington - left out of the federal disaster declaration because assessed damages were below a required threshold or were sustained outside the time period covered by the declaration.

Damage to roads, government buildings and public assets statewide from drenching rains and overflowing waterways topped $40 million. The June flooding affected about half of Minnesota’s 87 counties. All told, the state needed to find about $11.7 million to pay its share of the response and repair costs.

Dayton’s team was to meet next week with top legislative officials about taking swift action.

Susan Closmore, a spokeswoman for the new GOP House majority, said leading lawmakers were awaiting information.

“Officials have not provided us details for a flood relief proposal, but we look forward to hearing more,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, the Legislature’s top Democrat, said he’s prepared to move fast.

“We’ll address that as early as I can get the House to move on it,” Bakk said, adding that he hopes lawmakers will also replenish the contingency account next year to deal with other emergencies that might arise.

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