Legislative mischief on Minnesota’s dedicated environmental spending is back again this year.
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, has declared that the Senate will not pass an Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) bill this session. This unprecedented failure would leave $64 million in voter-approved dedicated environmental funding unspent at a time when our environment and economy need it most.
In 1988 (and twice since then), Minnesota voters approved a constitutional amendment to dedicate a portion of state lottery proceeds to the Trust Fund. This funding has been a tremendous success, investing over $700 million in more than 1,700 research and restoration projects in every corner of the state.
The work of reviewing and recommending which projects receive this funding falls to the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).
As former LCCMR members, we know firsthand that this process has traditionally been open, transparent and nonpartisan. The LCCMR conducts a yearlong outreach and meeting process, and manages the project reviews, funding recommendations, and project oversight.
But in recent years, various factions have proposed raids to this dedicated funding, including for projects like wastewater treatment and landfills that are expressly prohibited from receiving Trust Fund dollars funding. Now, recent history is repeating itself.
Last July, the LCCMR had tentatively selected 77 priority environmental projects totaling $61 million to recommend to the 2020 Minnesota Legislature for funding. Unfortunately, a late-in-the-game addition by Sen. Ingebrigtsen ($1.5 million for a single wastewater treatment project that has not received commission approval), became a poison pill provision that killed the supermajority vote necessary for the LCCMR recommendations to move forward to the Legislature.
Now, Sen. Ingebrigtsen’s Senate committee is refusing to pass any Trust Fund funding this year. We must not allow a $1.5 wastewater controversy to take down the entire bill, especially when the governor has proposed more than $200 million in water infrastructure investments in the bonding bill — the traditional source of such funding.
As former LCCMR members, we ask Sen. Ingebrigtsen and the Senate to end the hostage-taking approach and remove the poison pill provision. It’s time to pass a clean Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund bill.
Let’s put these dedicated funds to work protecting, enhancing and restoring Minnesota’s environmental assets as voters intended.
Jeff Broberg is a former LCCMR commissioner. This article is also submitted on behalf of former commissioners John Hunt, Dennis Fredrickson, Mary Mueller, John Herman, Bonnie Harper-Lore, Al Berner and Tom Cook.