Moving forward with their all-cuts budget, the Senate Republicans recently released legislation to cut funding for Environment and Natural Resources by 15 percent. Included in the reduction is a $6.142 million cut to the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Parks and Trails Management funding. A representative of DNR reported that the cut could force the DNR to close 26 state parks.
Senator Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids) is encouraging Republican leadership to take a step back before making such an extreme move. “This is the type of impact Minnesotans are going to see with an all-cuts budget,” said Sen. Saxhaug. “We are proud of our outdoor heritage and shutting down that many parks will not sit well with folks. This is a time to show our constituents what our priorities are. We are telling Minnesotans that state parks are expendable when it comes to meeting the bottom line.”
The Republican budget will also cut funding for the Minnesota Zoo by $1.87 million, the Minnesota Conservation Corp. will lose 100 percent of its general fund dollars and the Pollution Control Agency (PCA) will see a $30.3 percent reduction. According to the PCA, these cuts will lead to a slower environmental permitting process for businesses wanting to build or expand; a priority the Republican Party focused on the first month of the legislative session.
The Environment and Natural Resources omnibus finance bill was recommended to pass by the Senate Environment Committee on a party-line vote. The bill’s next stop will be the Finance Committee.