(The Center Square) – At least one Republican is irked at how Gov. Tim Walz will spend a majority of the state’s disaster relief fund on what she contends isn’t a natural emergency.
Sen. Julie Rosen, R- Fairmont, disagreed with the decision to spend $11.7 million to rebuild Hennepin County after May riots and noted Republicans have blamed Walz for the $500 million damage done in the Twin Cities for not activating the National Guard sooner in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
"Using statewide taxpayer dollars for a local event that was completely preventable is an unconscionable ask of Minnesotans. It was up to Governor Walz and Mayor Frey to protect the city of Minneapolis and they failed,” Rosen said in a statement.
Rosen said the disaster relief fund is for "uncontrollable" disasters, not for riots.
“Walz is asking every Minnesotan who watched in horror as the city burned for three nights to pony up more of their tax dollars to bail out Minneapolis," Rosen said.
"With a $4.7 billion deficit, it does not make fiscal sense to spend down our disaster relief fund – a fund we need to be readily available in case of a real disaster – when we will not be able to meet our day-to-day expenses" Rosen added. "This move will affect the November Forecast, and the Governor should explain to Minnesotans across the state why he needs them to pay more in taxes over his mismanagement of public safety.”
The state is also facing a looming $4.7 billion deficit over fiscal years 2022-23.
On Friday Walz authorized state assistance for Hennepin County to help rebuild public infrastructure damaged by rioters in May. That will cost taxpayers $11.7 million – 70% of the $16.5 million disaster relief fund.
"Minnesotans work together to get through hard times," Walz said in a statement. "After that devastating week at the end of May, Minnesotans from across the state generously contributed and worked together with the people of Minneapolis to rebuild their city. This funding from the State joins that effort to rebuild and will help provide critical resources to the community."
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety's damage assessment verified more than $15 million in eligible fire-related damages.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has twice denied Walz’s federal disaster request.
The Minnesota Disaster Assistance Contingency Account will cover 75% of eligible costs while local governments will be responsible for the remaining 25%.
Walz can unilaterally spend that money under the state's Stat. Chapter 12B.25, which allows the Governor’s Authorized Representative to enter into grant agreements with local units of government.
Under Minnesota law, “disaster" means any catastrophe, including but not limited to a tornado, storm, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought or, regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or explosion.