On dedicated funding

All eyes this week are on the Cultural and Outdoor Resources
Finance Division in the Minnesota House of Representatives. It’s
this committee that will roll together all aspects of dedicated
funding – habitat, clean water, parks and trails, and the arts –
into a single bill. Meetings have been held nearly every day this
week, including this morning, but the focus so far has been on
emerald ash borer. No indication when this committee will actually
put together a spending bill. So for those who are tracking how the
Legislature handles the habitat spending recommendations of the
Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council, it’s still wait-and-see.

But one bill the committee is discussing has been the subject of
some controversy. That’s House File 1086, authored by Rep. Jean
Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis. The bill, among other things, creates an
“Office of Public Accountability for Constitutionally Dedicated
Funding,” and lays out an exhaustive list of conditions and
requirements that projects funded out of the Outdoor Heritage Fund
(the habitat money) would have to meet.

There was concern yesterday that, should the bill be approved,
the recommendations of the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council
essentially would be null and void because they didn’t meet these
new requirements. However, it now appears that wouldn’t be the case
because the new requirements would go into effect beginning in
August of this year.

Still, the requirements as written would be extremely onerous
and seem to be outside of what voters approved last year, which was
“to protect, enhance, and restore our
wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat.”
Instead of tapping the council’s expertise and experience, and
relying on members to sift through proposals, this bill and its
associated requirements seem to me to be nothing but
micro-management.

Said Don McMillan, president of the
Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, in a letter to Mary Murphy,
chair of the committee: “This bill appears to create another
oversight entity to look over other oversight groups. It creates
another layer of government bureaucracy that we should not have,
especially when the State of Minnesota is in a severe deficit
condition.”

Categories: Joe Albert

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