Preparing for disastrous flooding should start now

State Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, is worried about the record-setting snowfall this winter, which is expected to lead to major flooding throughout the state. He, along with other Republicans, are supporting legislation to add funds to Minnesota’s Disaster Assistance Contingency Account that now sits empty.

The account was created to allocate funds to communities impacted by natural disasters and to avoid calling special sessions to authorize the appropriation.

The House bill would transfer $20 million in Fiscal year 2019 and another $20 million in Fiscal Year 2020 in the contingency account, effective the day after final enactment.

Gov. Tim Walz and House Democrats have proposed putting $10 million into the account for 2019, but Swedzinski said that amount would be insufficient based on last year’s use and this year’s flood predictions.

The House Democrat credited with creating the fund, Rep. Gene Pelowski, of Winona, suggested the need isn’t so urgent. He argues that the fund was meant primarily to cover disasters that happen between legislative sessions.

The problem with that argument is that the 2019 session is scheduled to end May 20. If there is any lessons to be learned from flooding in the spring and summer of 2018, the threat of flooding can linger past the month of May.

“It would be irresponsible to ignore the warnings and let ourselves be unprepared,” Swedzinski said Monday.

He’s right — delaying taking care of this account right away would be irresponsible.