ST. PAUL – A bill Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, authored to fund marketing efforts for the Mille Lacs Lake area in response to a series of economic setbacks passed the House on Wednesday.
The bill provides a total of $300,000 over two years to continue the Mille Lacs Tourism Council and Explore Minnesota efforts to enhance Mille Lacs Lake’s image as a first-class recreation destination area.
“We can’t allow the current walleye catch and release regulations overshadow the real story,” Lueck said. “Mille Lacs Lake remains one of Minnesota’s crown jewels as an all-around summer and winter recreation destination area.
“We also included an economic relief program to aid Mille Lacs-area businesses that have been hurt by the economic downturn. Making sure we stabilize our local economy, which is heavily depended on tourism, is critical to maintaining a broad range of recreational opportunities and keeping jobs in our area.”
Legislation that Lueck co-authored with Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton establishes a $2.3 million economic-relief program for businesses in the Mille Lacs Lake area affected by most recent changes in walleye fishing regulations on the lake. It provides a variety of options for qualifying businesses, and includes in some cases a refund of all or part of the state general tax levy paid by Mille Lac’s Lake area businesses.
“Mille Lacs Lake is a key driver of our local economy,“ Lueck said. “We can’t just cross our fingers and hope for the best, we need to support our local businesses in our community as they work through this temporary downturn in the local economy.”
The Mille Lacs provisions passed the House in a wide-ranging omnibus policy and supplemental finance bill, which also included $40 million in new funding for broadband internet expansion.
“We continue to support expanding the broadband capacity in rural Minnesota,” Lueck said. “Our plan continues a measured approach with more dollars in this package than has previously been spent in the past three years. Once we get this plan in place, the real challenge will rest at the local level. Commercial broadband providers and local units of government will need to partner and access those new state matching fund dollars for broadband expansion.”
The agriculture section of the bill received significant bipartisan support during the committee process. It reprioritizes unspent avian flu emergency response dollars passed last session to farm safety – including a new tractor rollover protection pilot grant program, livestock and poultry disease prevention, and continues to maintain emergency response funds in the event of a future agriculture crisis.
The environment and natural resources portion of the bill also making made small adjustments to the existing Department of Natural Resources budget including help setting aside funds to pay for potential legal fees related to the permitting process which has now began for the proposed Polymet Project.
The Senate is expected to pass a single supplemental omnibus bill to cover all budget areas in the near future.