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Environmental budget cuts

Published (3/28/2008)
By Nick Busse
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Environment and natural resources spending would see a net reduction of nearly $1.6 million for the remainder of the biennium, under the supplemental budget proposal approved March 27 by the House Finance Committee, and rolled into the supplemental budget bill (HF1812).

HF1812, sponsored by Rep. Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal), now contains the environment and natural resources budget cuts originally in HF4021, sponsored by Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls). The provisions would reduce General Fund spending by nearly $3.4 million; however, they would compensate for some of the reductions by transferring more than $1.9 million from various dedicated funding sources.

The Department of Natural Resources would bear the brunt of the cuts, with a net reduction of $778,000, which would be spread out over a wide range of divisions and programs. The Pollution Control Agency would absorb most of its $469,000 net reduction into various administrative costs, while a $318,000 cut to the Board of Water and Soil Resources would affect mostly grant programs.

The total amount of General Fund spending reduced by provisions would be equal to the amount recommended by Gov. Tim Pawlenty; however, $1.9 million would be transferred from three different dedicated environment funds to help mitigate the impact of the cuts. The governor’s recommendations included only $1 million of such transfers.

Some of the individual programs affected would include: a $253,000 reduction to the DNR’s waters division for water resource management; a $230,000 reduction to the DNR’s ecological services division for managing impaired waters; and a $225,000 cut to the DNR’s land and minerals division.

Several proposed funding increases are also included in the bill. Notable examples include:

• $450,000 to BWSR for additional flood relief projects in southeast Minnesota;

• $369,000 from the Game and Fish Fund to the DNR for fish virus surveillance; and

• $134,000 from the Environmental Fund to the PCA for adoption of the California vehicle emissions standards (pending their enactment by the Legislature).

A proposal to cut $175,000 from the DNR’s budget for the Let’s Go Fishing program for senior citizens has been excluded from the bill, despite being in the governor’s budget recommendations.

A number of environmental policy provisions are also included in the bill. Among the more controversial of these is a requirement that all future landfills constructed in the state be located in areas where they are least likely to leech contaminants into groundwater supplies. This measure comes from HF3997/SF3703, sponsored by Rep. Julie Bunn (DFL-Lake Elmo) and Sen. Kathy Saltzman (DFL-Woodbury).

A companion bill, SF1475, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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