Bipartisan bills fix Environmental Trust Fund raid, restore voter trust

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By Matt Doll – Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Tuesday, Governor Walz signed legislation, passed with bipartisan support at the Capitol, to responsibly fund a series projects, including  water and waste infrastructure, and entirely fix the raid on the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. This agreement worked out by both Houses of the Legislature and the Governor resolves an unfortunate effect of last year’s bonding bill and paves the way for these worthy projects to receive full funding now.

Last session’s raid would have depleted the Trust Fund by spending money on expensive bonds for projects for which it was never intended to pay. It was for that reason that MEP and several other organizations filed a lawsuit against the state to block the bond sales from the 2018 legislation. (For more on the reasons behind the lawsuit, see our blog post from October 5.)

The Environmental Trust Fund has been a valuable resource for the enhancement and protection of Minnesota’s communities and natural resources. Like the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment funds, it was created by voters via a constitutional amendment and invests money across the state of Minnesota. As spelled out in the legislation that created the Trust Fund, it is intended to serve as a stable source of funding for new projects that help make Minnesota a cleaner and more ecologically healthy place to live.

The Trust Fund was never intended to serve as a bank for wastewater or landfill projects – core responsibilities of government that are traditionally paid for with state general obligation  bonds. The raid would have used a more expensive form of bonding, leaving the Trust Fund on the hook for interest payments and setting a disturbing precedent for future raids that could fully deplete the Trust Fund.

MEP and our partners are heartened to see that this legislative fix has been approved in one of the first bipartisan compromises of the 2019 session. It will provide stable funding for important infrastructure projects to help keep Minnesota clean while leaving the Trust Fund in good financial condition. We thank Governor Walz and the leaders and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for working quickly and fairly to restore the Fund and the trust of the voters who created it.

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