This morning, Steve Morse, executive director of Minnesota Environmental Partnership, testified at the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committee in opposition to House File 1010, the environmental omnibus finance bill. The hearing was a continuation of last night’s hearing that went from 6-10:30 p.m.
Steve talked about why this bill falls short of budget recommendations for the environment and also threatens Minnesota’s Great Outdoors heritage of clean lakes, rivers and streams:
Steve Morse: “The bill before you represents severe cuts to the general tax support for our Great Outdoors. Today I especially ask that you focus your attention on how this legislation affects the status of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams, our public health and Minnesotans’ Great Outdoors.
Minnesotans care deeply about these resources and water is, when asked, consistently at the top of their list.
Cleaning up and protecting Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams was the No. 1 reason why 1.6 million Minnesotans voted to pass the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
It’s about the water. This budget bill hits hard on Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams – with disproportional cuts to agency budgets that protect our water. It strikes at very core our shared Minnesota values.
We’re willing to do our share, but we’re not willing to stand by and be raided to modestly address the state’s budget problem.
Earlier this year each of you received a letter from a broad coalition of groups and MEP members underscoring three budget principles that we are using to evaluate consistency with the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
1. Minnesota’s Great Outdoors must maintain its traditional share of the total state general fund budget and not dip below its already small one percent proportion – a 30-year low. Any general fund cuts proposed for environmental and conservation programs must not result in a percentage reduction in these programs that is greater than any percentage reduction in total general fund spending;
2. Statutorily dedicated funds already in existence for Minnesota’s Great Outdoors cannot be raided to pay for other budget items; and
3. Any capital investments for Minnesota’s Great Outdoors must be maintained at a level at least equal to the 10-year average of 22 percent of the total general obligation bonding proposed or authorized.
Thank you for not raiding statutorily dedicated funds, but the bill before you today does not meet the 1 percent principle.
You have plunged far below that level – and Minnesota’s Great Outdoors; lakes, rivers and streams; and natural areas will suffer because of it.
Finally, we find particularly troubling two policy elements of the House bill:
1. A provision weakens water quality standards for wild rice
2. A provision removes natural resource conservation from permanent school trust fund goals
We believe this is the biggest cut to our Great Outdoors in Minnesota’s history. We were at historic low of 1 percent of general fund support before these bills – this bill takes us below that modest share.
This is about defunding our water resources, when it should be about Protecting Our Water – which is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s a Minnesota value.
We’re a modest 1 percent of the General Fund. Do you really need to zero in on our Great Outdoors to meet your budget targets? We ask you to abide by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Constitution Amendment and Protect Our Water.”
Learn more about the part of HF1010 that threatens Minnesota’s wild rice with this helpful summary by the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.