A bill to allocate funds from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) was heard this week in the Senate Environment Finance Committee. 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. 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 raised 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.
Despite this proposal being Republican led, one member of the Senate Republican caucus joined DFLers on the committee in voting against the bill’s passage. Because of this, the bill failed to move forward in the committee and was laid on the table for the time being. Without passing a spending bill from the ENRTF, valuable projects aimed to enhance and protect our natural resources could go unfunded this year. Senate DFLers are committed to working with our colleagues to pass a clean bill to fund this year’s important projects. (SF 4043)