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Legislative News and Views - Rep. John Burkel (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. John Burkel

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Hello from the State Capitol,


As many of you are avid all-terrain vehicle riders in northwestern Minnesota, I thought I’d alert you to a pair of bills that were heard in our environment committee this week.



It’s safe to say the two proposals are nearly opposites of each other.


The first, which I’m co-authoring, would provide $1.5 million to the DNR in order to improve and maintain ATV trails. Funding would come from the state’s ATV account. It also provides a grant to St. Louis County for the Prospector Loop ATV trail system.


In other words, no general fund tax dollars would be used for trail creation or improvements. The ATV account is funded by ATV registration fees and a portion of the state’s gas tax attributable to ATVs, so those who use the trails are paying for their upkeep.


The second bill – at best - severely restricts the siting of ATV trails throughout the state and would likely destroy the activity altogether. In my opinion, this legislation is a solution in search of a problem by restricting the use of ATVs and trails in our state. If approved, it clearly infringes on the recreation we all enjoy in northern Minnesota.


Both bills were held over for possible inclusion in a comprehensive environment bill that will be unveiled in the weeks ahead. I will keep you updated if either of these proposals make the final cut. 



To address the critical challenges being faced by rural ambulance services in Greater Minnesota, I have co-authored legislation to provide needed funding relief. The bill establishes aid for licensed ambulances, making a onetime appropriation of $120 million for this program.


Emergency medical services teams from around the state struggle to maintain operations. It has little to do with their ability to manage budgets, and much to do with the state’s inability to fix reimbursement rates to these organizations.


Severe reimbursement shortfalls, aging workforces, unsustainable staffing models and increased operating costs are forcing problems in local EMS services, creating a crisis that has life-threatening consequences for families and communities. In 2022, statewide reported operations deficit for ground ambulance service costs was $122 million. 


This proposal is designed for a one time-funding infusion, recognizing the state faces a budget surplus for the remaining of the budget cycle, but a budget deficit in the next term. 


Unfortunately, Governor Walz and DFL leadership in the House and Senate appear to have agreed on just $16 million being allocated to Greater Minnesota’s EMS needs. This is woefully short of what’s needed, and I’m hopeful they will revisit this decision before the end of session.



I enjoyed sharing thoughts and experiences about leadership skills with Larissa Fitzgerald from the Pennington County Soil and Water Conversation District on Wednesday.  



Appreciate all of her efforts to enhance those personal leadership skills and connect with her peers and bring that understanding and vision back home to folks in Northwest Minnesota.



Holy week has begun. Here’s wishing you and your family a very Happy Easter! Have a safe and healthy holiday weekend!