DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing a special legislative session sometime next month to consider an emergency financial aid package for resorts and other businesses in the Mille Lacs Lake area. But House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, says he thinks it may be too early to talk about bringing back the Legislature.
Dayton is concerned about the economic hit that the popular fishing destination will suffer if state officials close the walleye season early due to a dwindling fish population. He discussed the idea with Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, Tuesday afternoon, and they agreed to meet next week to begin planning.
No decisions have been made, but Dayton told reporters Wednesday that the state assistance could include zero interest loans, property tax abatements and additional tourism promotion. He said “time is of the essence” to address a potentially “catastrophic” situation.
“We need to get the loan program under way,” Dayton said. “The resorts up there need working capital so they can pay their employees and just keep open, especially if the walleye fishing has to be closed beginning next week.”
Before a special session area legislators, lawmakers who oversee natural resource issues and state commissioners should meet to talk about the problem and ways to respond, Daudt told MPR News Wednesday.
“We’re very concerned about the situation. We want to make sure we do what’s right by these resorts. We don’t want to see them suffering because of this closing of the season early,” Daudt said. “But we also want to make sure we’re doing the right thing. And we want to look at all options.”
Dayton is scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon in St. Paul with Mille Lacs area officials and business owners. He plans to visit the area later in the week. The governor said he also intends to bring up the issue of tribal netting of walleye during spawning season on Mille Lacs.
Dayton said the special session would also include state assistance for the Brainerd area, which was hit hard by heavy storms two weeks ago.
MPR News reporter Tom Scheck contributed to this report.