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Constitutional amendment reauthorizing state lottery money for the environment could be on 2024 ballot

Three times in the past 35 years more than 70% of Minnesota voters approved constitutional amendments to spend lottery proceeds on environmental projects – most recently to reauthorize the dedication until 2025.

The question could well be put before voters again next fall.

A bill heading to the House Floor calls for Minnesotans to decide whether to approve a constitutional amendment to reauthorize the allocation of 40% of lottery proceeds to the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Sponsored by Rep. Athena Hollins (DFL-St. Paul), HF1900 was approved by the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee on a split-voice vote Friday.  

The ballot question would also ask whether the amount of the fund’s value that could be spent each biennium should increase from 5.5% to 7%.

Public opinion polls and previous votes show residents like that lottery money goes to the environment and natural resources, said Hollins. “This tracks because Minnesotans love the outdoors.”

Currently, the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources makes recommendations to the Legislature for spending about $80 million per biennium. Since 1991, about $700 million has funded 1,700 projects such as developing a solar-powered agricultural weed control robot, funding the University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, and testing if den boxes can help increase fisher populations.  

While the trust fund has funded scores of great projects, Hollins said, some organizations without resources to navigate the grant application process or wait for reimbursements have been shut out. “We want to make the outdoors accessible to everyone.”

She is proposing a community grant program funded with 1.5% of the trust fund’s value – estimated at more than $20 million. Projects in areas that have been traditionally overburdened or underserved would be given priority.  

Per a handout, examples of projects could include air exchangers, expanded educational programs for the White Earth Nation, and carbon sequestration on marginal cropland.

While the constitutional language regarding use of trust fund dollars is substantially the same, using money for capital improvements to wastewater facilities would be prohibited, something Rep. Kristin Robbins (R-Maple Grove) said is unfortunate.

A proposal to dedicate 50% of lottery proceeds and unclaimed prizes to the trust fund was removed by the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday.

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