ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - A legislative working group gathered for the second time Wednesday to develop a plan to help resorts impacted by the early end to walleye season on Lake Mille Lacs.
Reopening walleye season?
Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) and Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) proposed reopening walleye season through Labor Day to sustain resorts through the summer.
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said he is willing to work with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe to explore reopening walleye season this fall, but told the group that it would be September at the earliest. But one resort lobbyist testified that reopening the walleye season may be too late, saying anglers have already "cut and run."
Since the announcement of the closed walleye season, Karen McQuoid of Mac's Twin Bay Resort said the 10 resorts who report to her have lost $25,000 in bookings. Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar) warned that resorts "are going to go broke" if they don't realize soon if there will be ice fishing.
Special session needed for state relief
MARKETING PLAN - Explore Minnesota told the Mille Lacs working group that it wants to spend $400,000 on a new marketing plan for area, but doesn't have a budget. The state’s tourism office said it would need a special session to appropriate the extra funds for a Mille Lacs marketing plan.
ZERO-INTEREST LOANS - Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben is willing to offer Mille Lacs businesses zero-percent interest loans up to $100,000, with deferred payment for 2 years.
PROPERTY TAX BREAKS - The Mille Lacs County assessor said area tax assessments have ready fallen $31 million from last year, but clarified that the loss in valuation is before the walleye restrictions were implemented on the lake. Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said state law allows county boards to abate property taxes, but he advises lawmakers that a special session would be needed to approve reimbursements to counties for lost tax revenue.