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$500 million omnibus legacy bill clears first hurdle

Rep. Dean Urdahl give a brief overview of the House omnibus legacy bill during an April 20 committee hearing. Photo by Paul Battaglia
Rep. Dean Urdahl give a brief overview of the House omnibus legacy bill during an April 20 committee hearing. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Nearly $540 million for the environment, education, arts, parks, trails and other state resources is one step closer to being distributed around Minnesota.

The omnibus legacy finance bill, as amended, was approved by the House Legacy Funding Finance Committee Monday after a three-hour meeting during which a number of amendments were debated and several adopted. HF303, which now moves to the House Taxes Committee, would appropriate legacy funds for the biennium in the following manner:

  • Clean Water Fund – $226.2 million
  • Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund – $124.01 million
  • Outdoor Heritage Fund - $99.9 million
  • Parks and Trails Fund – $89.4 million

These funds were created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008. It increased the state sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent until 2034, distributing the proceeds among those four funds.

Before the bill was taken up, however, Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) – sponsor of HF303 and chair of the committee – performed what called “an attitudinal adjustment” regarding legacy funding. He said feelings of entitlement have been growing among some groups who had received money in the past, but “there is no such thing as a cut in legacy funding. Everything we do in legacy is extra. The baseline is zero for legacy funding and we need to understand that.”

Urdahl said there had been $27.8 million more in funding requests than money available and that some entities ask for more each year, but “it just doesn’t work to do it that way.” He also said it was “unwise” to fund the same recipients year after year, which is why new groups had been funded by the bill.

“My goal is to be fair, to serve the people as they expect to be served through legacy money,” Urdahl said.

Amendments considered

One group that did not receive its full funding request was the Perpich Center for Arts Education,which asked for nearly $3.6 million but would receive $1 million. Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley) said the amount requested had been carefully arrived at and would go to fund ongoing projects such as teacher development programs that needed money to continue.

The amendment Freiberg offered to increase the funding level by $2 million was defeated, but Urdahl said some appropriations could change as the bill moves forward.

One of the amendments that was adopted concerns a program that would create a trust fund account to reimburse Minnesota counties for lost tax revenue when Outdoor Heritage Fund money is used to buy land in their jurisdiction. Offered by Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls), the amendment would require a study of this new approach, which was originally proposed in a bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa). Kahn said her amendment didn’t mandate anything, she just wanted to “start looking at” the issue.

Another amendment adopted by the committee would add $200,000 to fund arts education, mentor programs and community presentations designed to engage Somali youth in communities around the state. An organization called Ka Joog, which is a Somali term that means “stay away,” works to fight radicalization by promoting education and intercultural engagement. 

Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar), who offered the amendment, said it would help keep youth focused on beneficial programs and away from trouble.

What would HF303 do?

The bill also includes measures that would:

  • appropriate more than $52 million for the Pollution Control Agency to conduct surface and groundwater assessments, develop watershed restoration and protection strategies and fund dozens of other programs and initiatives around the state;
  • appropriate $32 million to the Minnesota Historical Society to preserve and enhance access to the state’s history and cultural and historical resources;
  • appropriate $4.5 million for the Board of Water and Soil Resources to acquire permanent conservation easements to expand the CWF riparian buffer program; and
  • prohibit previous legacy fund recipients from receiving future funds if they are found to have failed to comply with laws, rules or regulations by the legislative auditor.

What’s in the bill?

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


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