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Omnibus bill would spend Legacy funds on more than 60 projects, grants

A member of the audience looks through HF4167, the omnibus Legacy finance bill during Monday’s hearing in the House Legacy Funding Finance Committee. Photo by Paul Battaglia
A member of the audience looks through HF4167, the omnibus Legacy finance bill during Monday’s hearing in the House Legacy Funding Finance Committee. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Lawmakers hope to use $142.1 million of Legacy funds to enhance thousands of acres of land, protect clean water and fund arts and culture projects across the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont), HF4167, as amended, would appropriate money from three of the four Legacy Funds, which were created by the Legacy Amendment in 2008, to benefit the state’s natural and cultural resources.

The House Legacy Funding Finance Committee approved the omnibus legacy finance bill Monday and sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee. Its companion, SF3403, sponsored by Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point), is awaiting action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee.


Outdoor Heritage Fund

The bill would appropriate $113.9 million in Fiscal Year 2019 to protect, enhance and restore about 102,000 acres of wildlife habitat across the state, said Mark Johnson, executive director of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

The money would fund 47 programs, as recommended by the council.

The bill proposes spending $65 million to protect 18,357 acres, $22.6 million to enhance 77,835 acres, and $14.2 million to restore 5,733 acres. Of the spending, 43 percent would be used on prairie land, 31 percent would be dedicated to wildlife habitats, 16 percent would affect wetlands and 10 percent would go to forests.


Clean Water Fund

The bill would appropriate $26.4 million from the Clean Water Fund in the 2018-19 biennium for 10 programs and grants, many of which were removed from last year’s omnibus legacy finance law. Most of the money – $23.3 million – would go to the Board of Water and Soil Resources for five projects:

  • $10 million for the board’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which allows farmers to voluntarily enroll in programs to create buffers, restore wetlands, and protect wellheads for drinking water;
  • $5 million for grants to soil and water conservation districts for cost-sharing contracts with landowners to help farmers establish buffer strips;
  • $4.3 million for the implementation of the One Watershed One Plan, a pilot program that would provide performance-based grants to local governments. The grants would be used to implement projects that protect, enhance and restore surface water quality in lakes, rivers and streams; protect groundwater from degradation; and protect drinking water sources;
  • $3.5 million for grants to protect and restore drinking water and groundwater; and
  • $500,000 to provide support to the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center to further develop and expand the use of existing irrigation assistance tools and implement an outreach and education program.

What’s laid out in this section of the bill is a “little different” from the recommendations of the Clean Water Council, said Shannon Lotthammer, assistant commissioner at the Pollution Control Agency, who testified on behalf of all the state agencies that would receive that funding.

WATCH Full video of Monday's meeting of the House Legacy Funding Finance Committee

Lotthammer said all budget items in the bill are “important and worthy causes” that were all part of the recommendations made to the council, but they’re at slightly different funding levels.

The committee also adopted an amendment to the Clean Water Fund section of the bill, which would make some changes to groundwater and drinking water protections grants. Lotthammer said the amendment reflects language recommended by the Clean Water Council.


Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund

The bill would appropriate $1.8 million from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund for eight projects, including $60,000 to fund a Capitol Art Exhibit Advisory Committee that would make recommendations to the State Capitol Preservation Commission on art displayed at the Capitol and $1 million to create a women’s suffrage 100th anniversary commemoration commission to honor the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

This portion of the bill also includes language from HF3269, sponsored by Rep. Steve Green (R-Fosston). The proposal would require projects that get funds be completed in Minnesota by a Minnesota resident and prohibit funding projects that promote domestic terrorism or criminal activities.


What else is in the bill?

The following are bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus legacy finance bill:

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