House Committee Agrees on Disaster Payment Recommendations

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JEFFERSON CITY - Lawmakers met at the capitol Monday to finalize their recommendations on how to pay for disaster clean-up efforts before a special session convenes in September.

The House Interim Committee on Disaster Recovery met to finalize a report it will submit to the legislature. Committee members said the legislature must increase available funds because the money set aside will not cover the cost to rebuild in areas like Joplin and flooding in southeast Missouri.

The money set aside for disaster clean up and other emergencies is known as the "Rainy Day Fund." State law allows legislators to use up to half of the approximately $500 million toward rebuilding areas affected by natural disasters.

Representative Bill White, R-Joplin, said this situation is exactly why the state should use the rainy day fund.

"If this isn't a time to use a disaster fund, when are you ever going to do it," White said. 

Representative White said if the legislature decides to use the rainy day fund, it must first reform repayment terms. Right now, Missouri law requires the state to pay back any money borrowed from the fund within three years.  But lawmakers worry that repayment timetable requires payoff too soon.

Missouri Budget Director Linda Luebbering said she is not sure if the rainy day fund is the best solution to rebuild in disaster areas.

"I don't know that the rainy day fund is exactly the best source for what we're currently facing. That's really a discussion we need to have," she said. "It is an option, I don't know that it's the best option."

The House panel will submit a final report to House Speaker Steven Tilley by the end of July. Lawmakers hope to have more concrete numbers by the special session scheduled for September.