Special Session Wrap-Up and Legislative Summary : Slightly better, but still bad.
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Update on Minnesota’s Great Outdoors
Click on “more” for a summary of the regular legislative session.
The compromise budget bill cut programs that protect our water, land and air by 14%.
State legislators must stop relying on one-time budget band-aids and instead must implement long-term solutions that will ensure Minnesota’s Great Outdoors are protected for our children and grandchildren. The Pollution Control Agency alone – whose workers ensure that Minnesota’s air, water and land are safe – is cut by 40 percent in this compromise bill. Although we are grateful that overall cuts were decreased in the final compromise, funding to protect our lakes, rivers, streams, habitat and parks is still severely cut.
These significant cuts go against Minnesota voters’ clear wishes to do more, not less, to protect our state’s water and Great Outdoors. Just two and a half years ago, Minnesotans voted to raise their taxes by passing the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, and proved they’re willing to spend more to protect what they value about our state. The Legacy bill did pass during special session - one of the few bright spots this year. However in the end, the overall budget compromise for environmental and conservation programs is not consistent with the will of Minnesota voters.
Even though the Special Session was about the BUDGET, the environment budget bill included harmful policy provisions. There are two troublesome policies we’d like to highlight. Both let polluters off the hook by weakening permit requirements for factory feedlots and by allowing those who are polluting wild rice waters to continue to do so, maybe for years, until new studies are done.
For more information on the feedlot provision, view the post from the Land Stewardship Project: http://bit.ly/mX5wvs
According to the Dept. of Natural Resources, Minnesota’s native wild rice is easily harmed by sulfate pollution. The current sulfate standard is 10 mg/L, but some reason it has rarely been enforced. The compromise budget bill requires that the state conduct new research to update or confirm the current standard. During that time, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is forced to “ensure that no permittee is required to expend funds for design and implementation of sulfate treatment technology” until the research is done and a public process is complete to update or confirm the current standard. This process could take years. As new toxic producing sulfide mining projects are being proposed in northern Minnesota, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership has been diligently watching related policies. It is a huge disappointment that this policy was passed in the special session compromise.
-- Toxic Producing Sulfide Mines: http://bit.ly/pGsetf
-- Legislative Summary: http://bit.ly/njjjR9
-- Special Exemptions for Special Corporate Interests: http://bit.ly/pSWT1z
-- Transit summary from the blog of Transit for Livable Communities: http://bit.ly/nwd3KW
-- Legacy bill (full 62-page bill): http://bit.ly/ovbPjt
-- Special Session Environment Budget bill (full 92-page bill): http://bit.ly/pDRM5Z
-- Join us for upcoming community events focused on clean water and clean energy: http://bit.ly/qd8XZO
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Next Year - Protect Our Water
Dear Legislators and Governor Dayton,
Next year I would like the legislative session to end with an agreement to do more, not less, to protect Minnesota's Great Outdoors and keep us on the path to a clean energy future.
Minnesotans like me care deeply about our water, wildlife habitat, parks and trails, and natural areas. The number one reason 1.6 million Minnesota voters supported the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment was to do MORE to clean up and protect Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams.
Minnesota has a strong outdoors tradition and more shoreline than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined. We must maintain at least our traditional share of the total state general fund budget and not dip below its already small one percent proportion – a 30-year low.
Unfortunately, the budget that was passed puts those traditions and values in jeopardy.
The budget bill takes us well below this “low water mark” and fails to maintain the “traditional sources of funding” as required in our Constitution. While overall state general fund expenditures are increasing by double digit percentages, this legislation cuts Environment and Natural Resources spending by approximately 14%, with draconian general fund cuts of 40% to the Pollution Control Agency.
I find the budget cuts in the special session compromise to be alarming. I value our lakes, rivers, and streams and our Great Outdoors. In order to ensure these great places are protected for future generations, we must ensure there is sufficient funding for conservation, restoration and enhancement of our lakes, rivers, streams, prairies and forests today.
I urge you to focus your attention on additional revenue sources, such as increasing user fees on hunting, fishing and boat licenses.
In addition to the budget cuts, attacks on clean energy, special exemptions for special corporate interests, and attempts to weaken water protections are very troublesome. At one point, environmental groups were actively fighting more than 40 harmful bills that would have unraveled Minnesota’s environmental, conservation, and energy policy foundation.
In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota should be about Protecting Our Water – which is not a Democratic or Republican issue, but a long-held Minnesota value. We can do better for Minnesota’s future by investing in clean water and continuing down the path to a clean energy future.
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