Gov. Dayton has signed the Legacy bill, but vetoed specific appropriations to metro parks and invasive species.
His letter to Rep. Paul Thissen, Speaker of the House, is below. In it, Dayton reveals that to get Legacy out of a House-Senate conference committee, he agreed with Majority Leader Sen. Tom Bakk and Thissen to sign the bill with the two controversial items intact.
Virtually all environment, conservation and wildlife groups opposed the metro parks and AIS funding because they were inserted in the Legacy bill by the House, with particular support of House Legacy Chair Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, and, either implicitly or explicitly, by Thissen.
But a firestorm of calls and letters to the governor's office and residence in the past few days apparently assured Dayton the right thing to do would be to line-item veto the two items. Otherwise, the integrity of the Outdoor Heritage Fund of the Legacy Act would be called into question, because the process of securing money from it without appealing to the Lessard-Sams Council, and instead going directly to legislators, would be apparent.
Undoubtedly, had the governor supported the two items in the Legacy bill it would have cost him in his expected bid for re-election. Nonetheless, it's likely he would have signed the bill as agreed to with Bakk and Thissen in order to get the bill passed, had he not made a contradictory promise — as he alludes to — to hunters and anglers and other state outdoors enthusiasts.
That promise said he would veto any attempt to "usurp the authority of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council'' — a promise that was recorded on video at Game Fair during Dayton's campaign and widely distributed in recent days.
Dayton also underscores in his letter to Thissen the rift that has grown this session between the House Legacy Committee (and by implication, Kahn) and outdoor interests.
Interesting going forward will be whether Thissen replaces Kahn as committee chair — because the governor is correct, future Legacy bills ultimately might not be passed by the Legislature if relations aren't repaired.
Here's the governor's letter:
The Honorable Paul Thissen, Speaker of the House
Dear Mr. Speaker:
I have received, approved, signed, and deposited in the Office of the Secretary of State Chapter 137, House File 1183, the Legacy Bill, with the exception of the line item vetoes listed below: (metro parks and invasive species).
This decision is extremely difficult for me. I attach great importance to keeping my word. Unfortunately, in this instance, I have given contradictory assurances to legislators during the past few days and to thousands of Minnesotans during the past few years. I have decided that I must honor my promise to those citizens.
I believe that this decision also represents the best interests of the people of Minnesota, who care deeply about the Outdoor Heritage Fund of the Legacy Fund. In my 13 legislative sessions, I have rarely seen the acrimony and distrust, which this dispute has caused between legislators and concerned citizens. The bitterness is not about the merits of the two projects I am vetoing, but rather the way in which they were added and other significant changes were proposed to the House bill.
As the legislative session approached its final hours, this battle over money, priorities, and prerogatives threatened to block passage of the entire Legacy Bill, which contained $496 million of funding for important projects throughout our state.
Last Sunday afternoon you, Senator Bakk, and I agreed to a compromise, in which the above two items would be included in the Legacy Conference Report. Although I had expressed my strong opposition to altering the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Council before and during the session, it appeared at that time that our only two options were to: 1) agree to this compromise, or 2) jeopardize passage of the entire bill.
At that time, I hoped that the thousands of Minnesotans, who are deeply committed to the work of the Lessard-Sams Council, would accept our compromise. Since the bill's passage, however, I have heard from many organizations, representing thousands of our citizens, who believe my approval of those two items would betray the promises I have made repeatedly during the past four years to respect the Council's decisions.
I also note that investments in Metro parks, including habitat improvements, received other funding from the legislature this year:
• $9.085mm from the Outdoor Heritage Fund for Metro habitat; $33.774mm for Metro Parks and Trails grants from the Legacy Fund; $17.08mm to the Metropolitan Council for base funding for regional parks, from the Environment Finance bill; and $5.62mm from LCCMR for Metro-area habitat acquisition; totaling $65.559 million.
I also note that the following aquatic invasive species (AIS) received other funding from the Legislature this year as well, including:
• $8.526mm was appropriated in the Environment Finance bill to combat AIS; and $9.84mm was appropriated in the LCCMR bill for AIS research investments.
Nevertheless, my line-item vetoes do not reflect a lack of support for the two projects; rather they underscore my conviction that the House Legacy Committee must work with its citizen councils, not against them. I will ask the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council to reconsider these two projects when it assembles its next funding recommendations.
I believe it is imperative that the leadership of the House Legacy Committee repair its relations with the Lessard-Sams Council and the many sportsmen, sportswomen, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, hunters, anglers, and everyone else committed to the enhancement of our state's priceless outdoor heritage. Otherwise, I have serious doubts that a Legacy Bill can be enacted in future legislative sessions'