Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Guv’s foundation’ plan advances

Staff Writer

St. Paul Discussions regarding the centerpiece of Gov. Tim
Pawlenty’s environmental and conservation package which includes a
revamping of the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources have
begun.

Bob Schroeder, Pawlenty’s deputy chief of staff, convened a
small meeting last Wednesday that included a range of outdoors
interests. The Governor’s Office is working to build a coalition of
support for Pawlenty’s proposal.

“Our meeting last week was an initial step in that direction,”
Schroeder said. “A campaign effort, effectively.”

Pawlenty announced in October his plan, which would shift
spending and policy decisions from the LCMR to a new, seven-member
Minnesota Conservation Heritage Foundation, which the governor
would appoint.

The LCMR, made up of 20 lawmakers and a four-person, full-time
administrative staff, doles out about $37 million per biennium from
the Environmental Trust Fund (lottery proceeds) for conservation
projects. Under Pawlenty’s proposal, the new foundation would
parcel out that money, in addition to a dedicated sales tax if one,
like the so-called 3/16, ever passes and possibly some money the
DNR currently allocates.

It could be responsible for disbursing more than $50 million per
biennium.

The focus of last week’s meeting was to begin defining goals and
objectives, and mapping out a strategy for getting people on board
with Pawlenty’s proposal.

“There’s still a strong commitment to move forward,” said Mark
Holsten, the DNR’s deputy commissioner, who was not at the meeting
but was briefed on it. “That’s the word I received.”

The new conservation foundation could take over some funding
resources currently under DNR management, like the lottery in-lieu
sales tax and grant dollars. DNR lottery in-lieu money totals about
$18.5 million per biennium.

The DNR remains supportive of Pawlenty’s proposal, Holsten
said.

“(The LCMR) clearly has done some very good things,” Holsten
said. “The need looking to the future is for a more long-term focus
and a process that lets you take advantage” of opportunities as
they arise.

The Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance also supports Pawlenty’s
plan.

“From the folks I’m talking to, whether they hunt and fish or
not, something needs to be done,” said John Schroers, of MOHA.

Schroers likes Pawlenty’s proposal and was at last week’s
meeting, but said there are a lot of details to work out.

Chief among them is the seven citizens Pawlenty would appoint to
the conservation board, which some legislators including the
current chairman of the LCMR, Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy
questioned soon after Pawlenty announced the plan. It could be
difficult to find a group of seven people to serve in the volunteer
capacity, said Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount.

Schroeder plans to hold more meetings in the future to flesh out
Pawlenty’s proposal, “developing the frequently asked questions,”
he said.

Schroeder expects to have a proposal set to go by the time the
Legislative session begins on Jan. 4, 2005.

He’s optimistic about the chances of the governor’s proposal
passing.

“I think there is (a good chance),” he said. “To be honest with
you, after the last session and the dedicated funding when that
failed at the last hour a lot of wind went out of my sails.

“I think this is a smart way to go,” he added.

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