Environment Trust Fund bill clears final committee stop

A bill to allocate funds from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) was heard this week in the Senate Finance Committee. If passed, it would appropriate $70.88 million from the ENRTF for projects across the state aimed at the protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources.

The ENRTF was established in 1988 through a constitutional amendment and holds assets generated by the Minnesota State Lottery for these projects. The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) typically vets projects and makes recommendations to the Legislature on how to spend the funds, but the commission failed to reach consensus on a proposal in 2021, resulting in no recommendations being made to the Legislature for the 2022 legislative session.

In absence of a recommendation, the Legislature can still move forward with making appropriations from the ENRTF, but instead of following the guidelines of the decades old LCCMR for vetting projects, Senate Republicans instead chose to circumvent historic practices by inserting their own projects into the spending bill. Senate DFLers continue to raise concerns over such practices, citing the critical nature of vetting these projects to ensure they follow the constitutional guidelines of funding projects using the ENRTF. Questionable uses of the ENRTF in the past have landed the Legislature in legal proceedings to defend their decisions, so legislators have continued to urge caution in how the Legislature approaches these decisions.

The bill was passed by the committee and will be taken up next on the Senate Floor. (SF 4043)