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House panel approves $61 million for environmental projects

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An annual bill that approves funding for dozens of water quality, research, environmental protection and environmental education projects has been approved by a House committee after falling victim to a partisan disagreement last summer.

On Tuesday, the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee approved HF30, which would appropriate $61.4 million for dozens of projects statewide, by a 17-2 vote. The bill, which has no Senate companion, now heads to the House Ways and Means Committee.

It is nearly identical to one that was approved by DFL-controlled House last spring but was sidelined after the Republican-controlled Senate tied its passage to delaying the implementation of proposed clean car standards.

Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), the committee chair and bill sponsor, is optimistic it would become law this session. He said that hope stems from recent comments by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), who chairs the Senate Environment Natural Resources and Finance Committee, and has said he expects the legislation to be moved.

The bill would appropriate money from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the source of which is Minnesota State Lottery revenue. The 17-member Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, which includes five Republican and five DFL lawmakers, recommends which projects to fund.

In recent years, DFL and Republican lawmakers have clashed on whether the trust fund should be used to pay for wastewater treatment projects. Democrats say bonding should be used to pay for such projects, while Republicans say using the trust fund to pay for wastewater infrastructure is prudent.

No funds for wastewater treatment projects are included in the Hansen bill.


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