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Lawmakers are seeking more funding for flood prevention

Rep. Morrie Lanning of Moorhead says a proposed House public works bill contains little flood-prevention money. It would fund $12.7 million in flood prevention, compared to $26 million in a Senate-passed measure. Tribune photo by Don Davis

ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans are fighting floodwaters along the Red River and elsewhere while their lawmakers are fighting about the cost of preventing prevent future floods.

The fight spilled over into other areas, too, as House leaders Monday introduced a smaller public works bill than senators passed this month.

Rep. Alice Hausman, chairwoman of the House public works funding committee, said the proposal "is a taking-care-of-basics bill."

The St. Paul Democrat encouraged members of her committee to find ways to spend more money folowing talks designed to work out a final bill.

With most minds on the Red River, flood prevention was a prime topic once the bill was unveiled.

"Woefully inadequate" is how Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, termed the Hausman proposal. "I am disappointed by that."

Senators early this month folded $26 million in anti-flood programs into a public works funding bills. The House Democrats' plan includes $12.7 million.

Hausman said since she was given a much lower amount to spend than in the Senate bill, she needed to cut everywhere. "It has to be fair."

The $12.7 million is what the state needs to make sure federal flood-prevention money is spent, she said. Hausman said some flood prevention money also could come in an expected flood recovery bill this spring.

"We need to gather some information," she said.

In a Monday afternoon committee meeting, Lanning told Hausman that she is confusing two types of funding. Money from her committee is destined to prevent future floods, such as building permanent dikes. The other money would be used to help Red River and other communities rebuild after this year's flooding.

A recovery bill probably would not contain money for flood prevention, Lanning said.

Northwestern Minnesota lawmakers want the money included in the original public works bill -- and want more money than Hausman included.

"If we are going to do a bonding bill, let's do it right," Lanning said.

Overall, the House's full bonding bill would spend $247 million, compared to $367 million in the Senate version.

Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, told Hausman that she wants to make sure the bonding bill emphasizes projects that need state participation before federal money flows to Minnesota.

Murphy said that she expects "projects that aren't in here, but do have federal money attached to them ... will be at the top of your priority list."

No local projects such as community centers are in the House bill. Much of the money goes to fixing up state college and university buildings, following the Senate bill in that respect.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.