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Addressing disaster relief and the rural finance authority

The legislative session is moving quickly, and my colleagues and I have been hearing bills in committee and are beginning to move bills off the floor. Now that we’ve received the February forecast from Minnesota Management and Budget, we also know the most up-to-date information about our state’s fiscal situation. While a positive budget balance is good news, we also face much uncertainty. Instead of committing to ongoing spending, let’s focus on one-time funds and strengthening our reserves to better prepare for any challenge we face.

One issue where one-time spending makes sense was addressed this week at the Senate. Several severe weather events have happened across the state in recent years, costing communities millions of dollars in damage. When these events happen outside of the legislative session, the Legislature is required to hold a Special Session in order to respond and direct relief aid.

That’s why we created the disaster contingency account – to have funding that is readily available for disaster aid. This fund allows the Governor to direct funding immediately following a natural disaster or severe weather event, helping ensure communities have the support they need as soon as possible.

Our area has relied on these funds in the past, and we should commit to maintaining it at levels that will ensure it’s available in the future. On Thursday, we passed legislation providing $30 million in funding for this account, which was a major priority and an early success for the 2020 session.

Another major priority is refilling the funding available for the Rural Finance Authority (RFA) – a critical revolving loan fund that helps Minnesota’s farmers. Our agricultural economy has been hit hard by a combination of bad weather, economic turbulence, and other issues that have presented major challenges for farmers. The RFA provides direct, vital funding to our farmers, and is resource that we must invest in.

Due to the many challenges that are farmers are facing, the RFA’s available funds have run out. Thankfully, the House of Representatives passed legislation carried by Representative Poppe providing much needed funds for the RFA, and the Senate will be taking this legislation up very soon. It’s critical to farmers that we provide the stability and support they need, especially in these difficult times, and I look forward to acting quickly.

With only a few weeks before the first deadline, there’s a lot of work that remains to be done at the Capitol, but I’m glad we are acting on these issues early. As we go forward, I encourage you to reach out to me with any concerns or questions you may have about this legislation or the legislative session.