Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Senate tax bill includes funding for clean water

Staff Writer

St. Paul The Senate omnibus tax bill that passed last Friday
includes $34.5 million over the next two years to pay to clean up
the state’s lakes and rivers through the Clean Water Legacy
Act.

A broad coalition of farm groups, environmental groups, and
businesses had earlier said it would take about $80 million per
year to bring Minnesota into compliance with the federal Clean
Water Act.

The tax bill includes $34.5 million for the next two years, $40
million in 2008, and $80 million in 2009 and subsequent years. The
$80 million level would be achieved only after the Environmental
Protection Agency approved at least half of the cleanup plans.

“What they’re trying to do is, once the plans are done, the
money would be ready,” said Anne Hunt, environmental program
coordinator for the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. “The money
needs to come sooner than that.”

The original plan introduced in the Legislature earlier this
session would establish fees on businesses and residential
properties to raise the $80 million.

The hope was to have the first clean-up dollars available in
2006, then the full $80 million in 2007, Hunt said. The money from
the tax bill would delay that money.

“It’s a very fluid process,” Hunt said. “We don’t want to be
hamstrung by waiting until the federal government gets all its
paperwork done.”

The Clean Water Legacy Act was scheduled for hearing on Tuesday
in the House and Senate.

The bill has been in the House Agriculture, Environment and
Natural Resources Finance Committee for weeks as legislators there
try to reach a compromise to fund the act. The bill still needs to
pass three committees in both the House and Senate.

“We’ve still got a few hurdles to get over,” Hunt said. “But
we’re optimistic. It’s clearly in the endgame strategy.”

Budget bills set for

conference committee

The House and Senate have passed omnibus environmental budget
bills that will be hashed out in a conference committee.

The Senate bill was passed in early May. The House bill,
meanwhile, passed last Friday and includes outdoors spending
cuts.

Under the House bill, environmental spending would fall to about
1 cent per GF dollar.

“It’s unfortunate we continue to reduce funding for the
environment,” said Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul. “The trend
line just continues down and down, at the same time our population
goes up and up.”

Hansen, along with Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, and Rep. Andy
Welti, DFL-Plainview, sent out a letter early this week outlining
their discontent with the House bill.

“In the north, where I live, that’s foresters who are not going
to be in the woods,” Moe said.

In addition, the House bill contains a variety of provisions
regarding off-highway vehicles, including creation of a program
whereby ATV clubs would receive grants to help monitor and patrol
trails. That provision was removed from the Senate bill.

The House bill also includes Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s idea to create
a Minnesota Conservation Heritage Foundation, which would replace
the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources in doling out
money from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The
federation would have 11 citizens appointed by the governor and
confirmed by the Senate.

During the floor session, there were many close votes on
amendments to the omnibus bill, and LCMR reform was a “flashpoint,”
Hansen said. One amendment would have divided control of the LCMR
between the Senate, House, and citizens. Another would have created
a 16-member board composed of eight legislators and eight
citizens.

New life jacket law

Children under 10 years old are now required to wear a life
jacket while they’re aboard a boat under a law passed by the
Legislature. Pawlenty signed it last week.

The “Grant Allen Law” was named for a child who fell out of his
father’s boat and drowned in 2003. It went into effect May 6.

Children under 10 must wear a life jacket when they’re in a boat
that’s underway. They don’t have to wear a life jacket if the boat
is tied up or moored; if they’re in an enclosed cabin or below the
top deck of a boat; when on an anchored boat that is a platform for
swimming and diving; or aboard a charter craft with a licensed
captain.

The penalty for the first offense, until May 1, 2006, is a
written warning. For a second offense before that date, or for a
first offense after that date, the penalty is a petty
misdemeanor.

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