A bipartisan bill heard in the Senate Environment Policy and Legacy Finance Committee this week would initiate the process to place a constitutional amendment on Minnesotans’ ballots in 2024; the amendment, if ratified, would extend a current amendment that dedicates a portion of the state’s lottery sale proceeds to the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF).
The ENRTF was first established following voter approval of a constitutional amendment in 1988. The Trust Fund holds assets that can be appropriated, “for the public purpose of protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources.” Since 1991, the ENRTF has provided over $700 million to more than 1,700 projects around the state.
Unlike the current language of the amendment, this year’s proposal also includes some changes to clarify the intention of the Legislature for specific uses of the fund’s dollars. In prior years, disputes over whether water infrastructure projects are acceptable uses of the ENRTF have resulted in legal challenges brought forward against the Legislature; with this year’s bill, the language is clear that the fund cannot be used for these purposes. Additionally, this year’s language would raise the percentage of proceeds dedicated to the fund from the sale of state lottery tickets – from 40% to 50%.
The bill earned unanimous support from both DFLers and Republicans on the committee, and testifiers spoke to how cherished this funding is to the state of Minnesota, whose citizens are proud to protect and preserve the natural resources we all enjoy. It was passed and will be heard next in Senate Environment Finance. (SF 4131)