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Trout fishing.

Bob King, Star Tribune

Outdoors columnist is wrong about Legacy funds

  • Article by: PHYLLIS KAHN
  • April 10, 2013 - 10:29 AM

Repeatedly in recent months, outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson has falsely portrayed my work and that of the state House of Representatives on the 2013 Legacy bill. I now fully appreciate what Ronald Reagan meant when he turned to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential debate and said, “There you go again!”

In a February column on appropriation of Legacy Amendment funds (“Council’s advice needs to be heeded,” Feb. 15), Anderson misrepresented the history of the Legacy Amendment’s passage through the Legislature and the constitutional role the Legislature has in the appropriation of these funds.

More recently, in “Kahn has her own plans for funding” (April 5) Anderson continues to promote a tall tale about how the Legacy Amendment came into being. More importantly, he is just dead wrong about the bill that I hope comes before the entire House of Representatives.

First, Anderson criticizes the “review” by not one but two committees of the Legislature as though the Legislature’s job simply is to passively and blindly accept the work of the Outdoor Heritage Council and that we are rewriting those recommendations. In fact, the bill that I am carrying accepts all of the council’s recommendations.

Anderson also fails to inform readers that the Legislature has never strictly adhered to the council’s recommendations under DFL- or Republican-controlled legislatures. It is simply another myth like so many this columnist promotes.

Second, as part of our oversight of these funds, we have listened to public testimony and made changes to the legislation moving forward. After public testimony, we increased funding for Trout Unlimited in the second year of the biennium so that group can begin its work early next spring for 2014 projects and beyond.

We also removed funds for trails in areas for habitat improvement. The House bill will now have more money for the Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) program than the council recommended. Those are huge positives and were in no way done “willy-nilly” as Anderson represents.

Third, Anderson apparently is upset with certain items added to the council’s recommendation, and with the fact that the House bill would go to a two-year rather than one-year appropriation cycle — like all other Legacy funds and all funds the state budgets for. We found some serious flaws in the council’s process for selecting projects to be funded. Specifically, the 12-member council clearly did not examine the details of 15 metro habitat projects when it voted to essentially not hear any of those proposals. That obvious flaw cannot be overlooked by any responsible legislator.

Fourth, our bill will not include the proposal to change the composition or name of the council. Citizens will still have two-thirds of the membership and the largest voice.

In fact, the House Republican caucus put forward its own ideas on how these Outdoor Legacy funds should be spent. Surprisingly, the House Republican position was very nearly identical in many of the major areas.

The Republican proposal did not blindly follow the council’s recommendations as Anderson proposes; both the Republican and DFL proposals go to a biennial funding plan; both the DFL and Republican proposals kept intact the council’s funding recommendations except that the DFL plan increased funding for RIM; both plans would fund some or all of the request by metropolitan area government for habitat and wildlife projects in the seven-county area; both the DFL and Republican plans added funds for the Molpus forestlands in northeastern Minnesota to keep large tracts of land open to hunting; and both the DFL and Republican plans fund the tribal land project at the Fond du Lac reservation, albeit in slightly different ways.

Why Anderson attempts to grind his ax against Speaker Thissen or the DFL is a question only he can answer. This is an especially peculiar charge given that it took a DFL Legislature to place the Legacy Amendment on the ballot in the face of severe opposition from Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Anderson’s veiled political threat against one party is simply acting in an uniformed and irrational bullying manner when viewed in light of the facts. Yes, I may be smaller than him, and a woman, but that doesn’t mean I can be bullied. I must speak up when someone is misrepresenting the record and the truth.

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Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, is a member of the Minnesota House.

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