Bonding proposal kicks off Minnesota’s 2017 legislative session

A capital investment bill was among the final things Minnesota lawmakers discussed during the chaotic end to last year’s legislative session, and it’s among the first proposals on the table during this year’s session, which kicked off Tuesday.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday put forth a $1.5 billion bonding proposal (http://mn.gov/gov-stat/pdf/2017_01_04_MMB_Spreadsheet_and_Descriptions.pdf) that’s very similar to the package of projects he proposed last year. Among the items included in his proposal is $9.5 million for wildlife and aquatic management areas and $30 million for the Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve program. Dayton’s also included in his proposal $3.5 million for a fisheries management station at Lake Mille Lacs.

According to a news release from Dayton, the RIM Reserve money would compensate “private landowners for granting permanent conservation easements and establishing wetlands or riparian areas on their lands. The funds will help Minnesotans implement the new buffer strip law passed last session.”

It seems unlikely Republicans who control the state House and Senate will go along with a bill that size, but it remains to be seen exactly how they’ll respond.

Outside of Dayton’s proposal, the Legislature is just getting cranked up for a session that isn’t scheduled to end until mid-May. Crafting a two-year state budget is lawmakers’ top priority this year. But things likely will be slow to start with, given that more than 40 percent of House and Senate members are new.

“It’s precedent-setting, really – the number of new members,” said Bob Meier, DNR assistant commissioner.

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