In less than two weeks, the Minnesota Legislature will reconvene, and although the second half of the biennium is shorter, it will likely be another busy session. Because it is not a budget year, the Legislature will be focused primarily on the bonding bill and policy issues. For GMPT, we have several priorities for 2024. We would like to see more funding for the DNR’s local park and trails grant programs and will be pushing for the inclusion of such funds in the bonding bill.
With less than two months remaining in Minnesota’s legislative session, there is still a lot of work to be done before the Legislature adjourns May 20. Here is an update on GMPT’s top priorities:
- Legacy Funding – Securing Greater Minnesota’s share of Legacy funding for this legislative session and ensuring that the Legislature does not interfere with the funding recommendations made by the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC)
Our Legacy bill, HF 653/SF 836, has had hearings in both the House Environment & Natural Resources Finance Division and the Senate Legacy Finance Committee. GMRPTC Executive Director Renee Mattson testified in support of the bill in both committees, and GMRPTC Chair Tom Ryan also testified in the House.
In the House, the bill was amended to become the vehicle bill for all parks and trails Legacy funding, which means that the other requests for parks and trails funding were added to our request. The total amount allocated for Greater Minnesota under the bill is $20.36 million, which is $2 million more than we requested.
We had one concern with the amendment, however, in that it contains placeholder language, but no money for the GMRPTC. As discussed below, we have a separate bill that provides the funding for the commission out of the general fund. Ultimately, providing funding in the Legacy bill is our fallback position, but we would prefer general fund money.
HF 653 and SF 836 are now waiting to be folded into the overall Legacy bill during the next few weeks.
- Commission Funding – Pay for the GMRPTC out of the general fund
Our bill, SF 999, received a hearing in the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Finance Committee and was very well received. The challenge we face in the Senate is that even though our proposal is popular, the committee has a negative budget target, which means it is looking for places to cut spending, not add spending.
In the House, Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), chair of the Environment & Natural Resources Finance Division, has refused to give our bill (HF 868) a hearing, and has not provided an explanation.
- Outdoor Recreation and Local Trail Connection grant programs – We are seeking $1 million from the state’s general fund for each program
Our bill, SF 835, was heard in the Senate Environment Policy Committee last week. It is serving as the Senate Environment Policy vehicle bill, which means that it passed out of the committee with a host of policy recommendations unrelated to our bill. Most importantly, it still includes $1 million for both grant programs.
Our companion bill in the House is HF 654, but Rep. Hansen is refusing to hear this bill as well.
In addition to general fund money for these programs, the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) is recommending another $2 million in funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. This recommendation is included in HF 2032/SF 2201. The Governor included a $2 million recommendation for these grant programs in his bonding bill proposal.