The blatant raid on state lottery proceeds constitutionally dedicated to the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund will now service a bond debt that is complicated, expensive and risky for the next 20 years (“Dayton reluctantly signs $1.5B bill,” May 31). What happened to following the public’s desire to protect, enhance and restore our natural resources?
Voters have overwhelmingly supported the lottery’s dedication to the environment three times. This legislative maneuver has voided the public trust and circumvented the intent of the fund. Devised in a late backroom deal with no option for the public to respond, it’s a gimmick that will open the floodgates to the use of dedicated funds for projects clearly suited for funding through bonding, a well-established tradition.
I know all too well. I represent citizens in efforts to oversee this fund, using my natural resource expertise to guide these dollars toward statewide projects that will invest in the long-term health of our water, land and air. I was appointed by Govs. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, and Mark Dayton, a Democrat, to go through this long and arduous process of selecting projects, along with six other citizen experts and 10 legislators. I felt fortunate to have this task, to travel the state and to have the ability to address these critical needs.
The yearly appropriation amount was one-tenth of 1 percent of the state’s budget. Now much of that will be used to pay off debt, fund pipes and motors for wastewater projects and clean up landfills — all needs not covered by the original intent of this constitutional amendment.
The fund has not ignored wastewater problems. Millions of dollars have been properly invested in preventing and applying research to solve the problem. Clean drinking water is always at the top of our priorities.
I just finished reviewing 273 projects worth $191 million seeking support this year to acquire land, fund research to prevent carp from invading our waters, combat emerald ash borer, help our struggling moose population and back so many other innovative endeavors. Most projects will be eliminated or reduced because of this legislation and its harmful policies.
Is this the legacy we sought for our children?
Nancy Gibson, of St, Louis Park, is a naturalist and author and a citizen member of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. She chaired the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund for 14 years.