Here are just a couple of newsworthy events that occurred this week here in Saint Paul.
Eight legislators, myself included, requested that Gov. Mark Dayton release an investigation into a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) employee’s alleged activity regarding the permitting of pipelines.
This past Saturday MPCA issued a letter indicating the agency's investigation was complete and an employee had been removed from further work on the Sandpiper and Line 3 permitting process. However the specifics that caused the agency to reassign duties for this employee were not released.
I remain deeply concerned over the unprecedented delay plaguing our permitting process for construction of crude oil pipelines in Minnesota. Delaying moving crude oil off our rail lines and into much safer modern new pipelines presents an unnecessary risk to public safety. The letter we sent to the governor is available at this link.
On Thursday the DNR revised the Mille Lacs Lake fishing regulations to allow the use of live bait. Initially live bait was prohibited as a way to reduce the number of released fish that end up dying. Fish that swallow a live baited hook, even if the hook is carefully removed or left in place by cutting the line are more likely to eventually die. Concerns were raised by fisherman and resort owners that is was more restrictive that necessary and negatively impacted more than just walleye fishing.
Regarding the state budget, last year you signaled a need for more investment in roads and bridges and tax reform. We continue to work on that. We are almost half way through this two-year budget cycle and have significantly less dollars to work with. About $900 million today, versus $1.2 billion last year.
During even-numbered years the Legislature also makes major capital investments in public owned infrastructure through the bonding process. That is how we take care of our state parks, university and junior college buildings, local roads and bridges, state agency buildings and other major capital facilities. We currently have several times more bonding requests than the budget will support.
We have our work cut out for us in reconciling what can be done – with what can wait – just as we must do with the family budget.
More details to follow next week on the budget.