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Omnibus Legacy bill approved and on its way

If you’ve spent some of your COVID-induced sequestration buying things online, then you’ve contributed to a more robust omnibus Legacy finance bill than expected.

Early in the pandemic, it was believed that an economic downturn would result in less money for the Legacy funds, which receive their monies through a 0.375% statewide sales tax. But Minnesotans continued to buy things, so $387.4 million of appropriations for fiscal year 2022 are in the omnibus bill.

The bill, as amended, is on its way to the House Ways and Means Committee because the House Legacy Finance Committee approved it 11-2 on Wednesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul), HF1079 was replaced by a delete-all amendment and a sponsor’s amendment that would earmark funding for nine cultural organizations catering to communities of color.

The Legacy Amendment was approved by Minnesota voters in 2008. The proceeds of the additional sales tax revenue are divided between four funds: The Clean Water Fund and the Outdoor Heritage Fund each receive 33%, while the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund gets 19.75% and the Parks and Trails Fund 14.25%.

Under the bill, the Outdoor Heritage Fund would receive $130.8 million for fiscal year 2022, while the Clean Water Fund would get $126.7 million, the disparity being due to COVID-induced delays and holdovers. The Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund would receive $73.1 million, while the Parks and Trails Fund would get $56.8 million.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

Three of the four funds receive their appropriations biennially, while the Outdoor Heritage Fund’s appropriation is on an annual basis.

More detail on the bill was presented before the House went on its Passover/Easter break.

An amendment was adopted that would allow the Luce Line State Trail to be connected to the Greenleaf Lake State Recreation Area.

“This would simply allow the DNR to put it in their master plan for future consideration,” said the amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City).

Two other amendments were defeated on an 8-5 party-line vote. One would have altered funding to include a documentary project on Minnesotans of Southeast Asian origin who participated in the Vietnam War — which Lillie felt hadn’t been sufficiently vetted — while another would have barred libraries from receiving Legacy funding for any “Drag Queen Reading Hour” events.

Defeated on a voice vote was an amendment that would have increased funding for a River Watch program on the Minnesota River. Lillie said program representatives agreed to the funding in the bill.

“There’s a lot in here for cultural diversity and I don’t know how that’s going to work in certain areas,” said Rep. Steve Green (R-Fosston). “Like land acquisition. Like a trail. How do you implement cultural diversity?”

Lillie responded by talking about the proposed Wakan Tipi Center in St. Paul.

“This would give an opportunity to have a habitat area in the metro,” Lillie said. “I think there must be many more projects like that out there.”

While Green objected to what he sees as a trend of Legacy funds being used for land acquisition, Lillie defended it.

“I’m lucky enough to live close to water, but a public piece of land is for everybody,” Lillie said. “You can get out in nature. … I think we have a great bill. Children’s museums, zoos, libraries, public TV, public radio, AMPERS [community radio stations], fixing trout streams, forestry, chronic wasting disease. Great clean water projects. And I’m really excited about the ethnic and cultural work in the bill.”

Its companion, SF971, sponsored by Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point), awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources and Legacy Finance Committee.

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