Friends and Neighbors,
With 5 weeks left in the 2017 Session, the Republican-led House of Representatives has passed all of our Omnibus bills. With 4 weeks left, the Republican-led Senate passed their Omnibus bills.
We are now in conference committee with these bills, and it is my hope we will have them on the Governor’s desk soon.
Monday, I was honored to be appointed to the Legacy Omnibus Conference Committee. I will join Chairman Gunther of the House Legacy Committee, and Chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, Dan Fabian. Our House Legacy appointees also include Representative Paul Torkelson, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Representative Leon Lillie, Democrat lead on the Legacy Committee.
I have two provisions in the Legacy Omnibus bill. One is a simple clarification requiring documentation of expenditures.
The second would allow county boards to file no net gain policies. If a County chooses to file no net gain, they can limit State land purchases with Legacy funds. Many northern counties are already property tax poor. Some are comprised of 75% or more of nontaxable land. This not only limits access for people wishing to own properties. It puts an increased burden on existing land owners already struggling to pay their property taxes.
Earlier this year I spoke with public officials from three of our counties about tax forfeitures. Each indicated high levels of forfeiture notices were sent out, ranging from 19 in one county to as many as 67 in another. State owned lands are a grave concern in northern counties where people already can’t afford their taxes.
Legacy funds also are allocated to clean water projects, as well as projects within parks/trails and the arts.
Of the funding areas within Legacy, I believe clean water to be the most important. Over the past 8 years, the legislature has funded the combating of invasive species with more than $120 million. This year is no exception. We have seen great success by local lake associations in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). Continued funding for these is essential. We have relied on the University of Minnesota for 8 years to research prevention and best practices to combat invasive species. If we cannot find answers soon, I would like to explore private options.
I will keep you updated as we continue to debate these issues in Legacy Bill Conference Committee with the Senate.