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Minnesota Legislature

Vetoed: Agency reductions unacceptable

Published (7/15/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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A bill to fund state environment, energy and commerce departments was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton, who felt the budget reductions to the agencies were too steep and would have “harmful effects” on Minnesotans.

The governor, who had recommended less than a 7 percent reduction to the Pollution Control Agency, objected to a 67 percent General Fund reduction to the agency. He said the cuts would delay, rather than streamline, the permitting process because of staff reductions. The agency’s overall reduction was less than 20 percent when adjusted for fund transfers, which he also opposed. “Some of the cuts will directly undo the gains made in the timely environmental review and permitting of projects my executive order and House File 1 accomplished earlier this year,” Dayton wrote in his veto letter.

Sponsored by Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), the bill would have transferred millions of dollars from several dedicated accounts to the General Fund, including $24.5 million from the worker’s compensation assigned risk plan. “These funds are paid by businesses and individuals for specific and limited purposes,” Dayton wrote.

The biennial budget would have contained appropriations for the Department of Natural Resources, the Pollution Control Agency, Board of Water and Soil Resources, Department of Commerce, the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Zoo.

Within the DNR, $93.7 million of the $439.5 million budget would have been from the General Fund. The rest would have come from dedicated sources, such as the Game and Fish, Permanent School, and Remediation funds. The governor objected to General Fund reductions for the forest management programs and the elimination of one of the state’s forest nurseries.

Nearly $5.7 million from the environment and natural resources fund, combined with $3.3 million from the General Fund, would have been spent on preventing aquatic invasive species. The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources makes recommendations to the Legislature about how to spend the environment and natural resources fund, comprised of state lottery receipts. Some LCCMR recommended projects were replaced in committee hearings to address “emerging issues” such as aquatic invasive species prevention efforts. In his veto letter, Dayton said the state needs a long-term and dedicated funding source for prevention.

Legislators refrained from increasing or establishing new fees in the Game and Fish Fund, even at the request of stakeholder groups. Dayton supported fee increases and had projected $18 million in additional revenue from hunting and fishing license fees.

Since fiscal year 2002, the Board of Water and Soil Resources has implemented cost-saving measures and Dayton said the agency was in no position to absorb a

$7 million proposed cut. Likewise, cuts to the Department of Commerce, which protects consumers and investigates fraud allegations in banking, insurance and several other industries, would have serious impacts on the department’s ability to perform its core mission, according to Dayton.

In addition, he opposed a planned $950,000 Insurance Fraud Prevention Account transfer to the General Fund. Restrictions to new coal-fired power were also contained in the bill. “This issue is moving through the legislative process on its own and has no place in an omnibus budget bill,” Dayton wrote. A scientific study of the affects of sulfates on wild rice that was supported by the governor and lawmakers also was in the vetoed legislation.

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