Jun 28, 2012 at 8:39 am
ST. CLOUD, MN (KNSI) - With Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton edging closer to ordering a special session of the State Legislature to offer aid for flood-ravaged communities up north, it's beginning to sound even more likely that those discussions could also include help for the Verso company and Sartell in the wake of last month's paper mill explosion and fire.
One local representative is all for using the opportunity to bring state lawmakers into the effort to help repair the damage to the community's economy.
St. Cloud Rep. King Banaian guest-hosted KNSI's Ox in the Afternoon program yesterday and said the big question is whether or not a special session will even take place.
"I'd be surprised if we didn't have it," Banaian said. "It just makes perfect sense that we should, it's the kind of thing that we normally do."
Since it is still too early to know exactly what it'll take to help Verso at this stage, Banaian says lawmakers would have to be open to listening to the exact needs of the company and community when it comes to getting the plant back online.
"One way to make sure they do that is talking to them about what kinds of incentives are needed to do this?" Banaian said.
As for the impacted workers in the meantime, Banaian said since no matter what the plant will not be fully operational again until likely December at the earliest, the state could extend unemployment benefits from their current run of 26 weeks. But getting everyone back to work full time would still remain the top priority.
"That's 259 people that got lay-off notices. The effect on their income is probably enough to cause another 100 or so people to lose their incomes as well," Banaian said. "That is pretty significant to this area."
If the special session does come to fruition, Banaian said he and his colleagues relish the opportunity to set partisan politics aside for a time and simply focus on doing something for the good of Minnesotans touched by tragedy.
"I just think that we are going to see something happen, something will come up in that discussion," Banaian said. "It is really going to be up to both sides to say, yeah this is the kind of thing that while we are here we can do some good there as well and lets all pitch in and do it together."
So far, still no clear indication from Dayton on how soon he might issue the order to convene the Legislature.
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