Earlier this month, Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) introduced SF 2, a bill on transportation funding. The bill proposes putting more money into roads, but at the expense of outdoor recreation. Because some gasoline sales are not related to highway uses (such as gasoline for a lawn mower or ATV), the state takes out a small percent of gas tax receipts before distributing them to roads and highways. This small revenue stream is dedicated to a number of outdoor recreation funds. SF 2 would eliminate that dedication so that all gas tax receipts go into the highway user tax distribution fund.
Funds that would lose money include the off-road vehicle account, the snowmobile trails and enrichment account, the all-terrain vehicle account and the water recreation account. We do not have an estimate of how much money they would lose, but it could be $20 million or more for the biennium.
This change could affect our members regardless of whether your parks and trails support motorized uses. It would decrease the money flowing into motorized trails. Even for members who do not tap into those funds, eliminating these resources would significantly increase the competition for the other limited funding sources available to parks and trails.
Diversion of funds from these accounts does not fall within our legislative agenda, but we know some members will be concerned about this issue. We plan to monitor the situation and keep you informed. If this is an issue that you care about, please let us know by contacting our lobbyist, Elizabeth Wefel, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We may need to take additional steps if there is sufficient member interest.
In the meantime, if you are concerned about this issue we encourage you to reach out to the author of the bill, Sen. Newman, as well as his co-authors, Senators Kiffmeyer, Jasinski, Jensen and Osmek. You can find their contact information here. We also encourage you to contact House Transportation Committee Chair Paul Torkelson. When we spoke to him last week he had not yet had a chance to review the Senate’s proposal, but he said he understood that it may cause concern for recreation users. His contact information is here.