The Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee met this week to consider the 2021 recommendations from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) for projects that will receive funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF). The ENRTF was established in 1988 through a constitutional amendment and holds assets generated by the Minnesota State Lottery for the protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources. Up to 5.5% of the value of the ENRTF by June 30, 2020, is available to be appropriated during this biennium, and projects in the bill were vetted and unanimously recommended by all 17 LCCMR members present.
Despite the universal approval of these projects during this biennium and in recent years, Senate Republicans have made a habit of using funding for LCCMR projects as a bargaining tool within their environment omnibus bill rather than passing the provisions as standalone bills. Last year, necessary funding was held up in their attempts to strip the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency of their ability to adopt vehicle emissions standards, and the jobs tied to these projects were put on hold because of their partisan politics.
Advocates are urging the Senate to pass these bills this year without tying any controversial provisions to them, so that Minnesotans can get to work on projects designed to protect and enhance our state’s natural wonders. However, when asked by Senate DFLers during the bill’s hearing, the Republican chair of the Environment Finance committee declined to pledge his commitment to passing this bill on its own and instead laid it over for possible inclusion in a broader Senate environmental omnibus bill.
Senate DFLers will continue to advocate for the passage of this funding as individual bills rather than tying them to controversial provisions, because Minnesotans deserve to have access to this constitutionally dedicated fund and should not have to wait to get to work on these projects. (SF 690)