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'What is the governor's plan?': Mille Lacs meeting ends with no answers

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There's currently no plan in place to provide economic help for businesses suffering due to the ending of walleye season on Mille Lacs Lake, and no clear indication a special session will be held to solve that.

At a legislative working group meeting held Thursday morning to address the issues, representatives from a handful of the state's economic agencies posed questions and offered suggestions of what type of aid may work.

That included the governor's previous suggestions of zero-interest loans, as well as using more tourism dollars to promote the area and looking at property tax abatements (things also discussed last week).

But co-chair Rep. Tom Hackbarth, a Republican from Cedar, made it clear he believes that's not the job of the working group, and said lawmakers needed a detailed plan – not suggestions.

"This committee was not put together to make that plan," he said. "We wanted to look at what the governor was offering. And then this working group was going to look at that plan and say, can we have a special session to get that plan done? ... But we've not seen a plan from the governor."

Hackbarth ended the meeting by asking, "What's the governor's plan?" and saying he doesn't think the working group needs to meet again "until the governor makes a decision on whether he's going to call a special session, or if he has something hat he wants us to look at."

Dayton: Hackbarth is 'playing games'

In a statement, Gov. Mark Dayton – who is currently on a trade trip to Mexico – called the result of Thursday's working group "extremely disappointing," saying Hackbarth's is "playing games, rather than providing help" to those affected.

"If they do not want to help Mille Lacs resorters and residents in a special session, they should say so," he said. "Otherwise, they should immediately make their changes to the financial aid package that I have proposed, submit it to their caucus leaders for their approval, and I will call a special session.”

Hackbarth, in his own statement later, reiterated his belief that the governor's plan isn't "concrete" enough.

The working groups come in the wake of an abrupt end to the walleye season last week, prompted by the state exceeding the allotment for this year. Dayton has said he wants to call lawmakers back to St. Paul for a special session to provide economic help to Mille Lacs-area businesses, struggling due to the early end of the season.

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