A pair of issues provided serious stumbling blocks for House and Senate conferees tasked with working out a budget compromise on the omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill – chronic wasting disease and the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.
Unable to make the Monday legislative deadline for the bill sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), a walkthrough was offered Thursday on the agreement that is expected to go before legislators in special session in the next few days.
The compromise would provide $14.78 million above base appropriations of $324.2 million from the state’s General Fund during the 2020-21 biennium for the Pollution Control Agency, Department of Natural Resources, Metropolitan Council Regional Parks, Minnesota Conservation Corps, Board of Water and Soil Resources, Minnesota Zoo, Science Museum and Board of Tourism.
The House initially sought a spending increase of $30.38 million; the Senate a $57 million reduction.
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Three weeks of negotiating while the conference committee awaited budget targets resulted in a number of policy provisions being adopted. Chief, and perhaps most intensely negotiated, were provisions relating to the state response to chronic wasting disease, the fatal neurological disease that has spread into Minnesota white-tail deer herds.
The compromise resulted in agreement that deer farms would:
The bulk of the additional funding included in the agreement will fund the board and department’s efforts relating to chronic wasting disease. The agreement would also increase the Aquatic Invasive Species surcharge to help fund ongoing control efforts and studies.
The House succeeded in keeping provisions to create a “No Child Left Inside” grant program, intended to help connect children to the outdoors. It would include Senate-sought funding for high school fishing league and firearms safety grants funded through the program.
The House also successfully included designation of the Rusty Patched bumble bee as the state bee.
The effort to rename a state park or state park structures after former Vice President Walter Mondale was reduced to naming a scenic river way for him.
A number of significant House provision failed to make their way into the compromise, including:
The Senate carried a number of significant provisions that made it into the agreement, including:
Trust fund dispute settled
The compromise would also approve how $64.47 million from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund is to be spent.
The disagreement over how to spend fund revenues was largely resolved by returning to the recommendations produced by the Legislative-Citizen Commission of Minnesota Resources.
[MORE See the LCCMR spreadsheet]
Each year, the LCCMR makes funding recommendations to the Legislature on projects that help maintain and enhance state environment and natural resources. Their mandate was established in the state constitution in 1963.
Normally, the Legislature would approve recommendations for fund monies for the approaching year, in this case 2020. But money previously earmarked for debt service in 2019 was returned to the fund, leaving legislators with $2.94 million for which the LCCMR had not made recommendations.
The agreement worked out a number of appropriations to be made in 2019, including: