On September 12, Bluestem reported in Broad coalition of conservation & environmental groups ask LCCMR not to raid trust funds:
A broad coalition of more than thirty Minnesota hunting, fishing, conservation and environmental groups--ranging from Ducks Unlimited, the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, and the Fish & Wildlife Alliance to Honor the Earth, Renewing the Countryside and our friends at CURE--have sent a letter to the members of the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) asking that they:
not to proceed with approval of any work plans for projects that are proposed to be funded by appropriation bonds approved by the 2018 legislature. The LCCMR members should instead uphold the clear language and intent of the constitutional amendments that have created and continue to support the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF). ...
Now some of those groups are taking the state to court, John Myers of Forum Communications reports in Groups sue over Minnesota environmental trust fund spending:
Several environmental and conservation groups on Wednesday, Oct. 3, filed a lawsuit claiming the 2018 Minnesota Legislature's move to pay for construction projects with money from the state's Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund is illegal.
The groups, in the lawsuit served to the state attorney general and Office of Management and Budget director Wednesday afternoon, claim the 2018 Legislature "approved an unprecedented raid on Minnesota's Environmental Trust Fund to pay for infrastructure'' projects like sewer plants, landfills and water plants.
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and other groups contend that, while the projects may be worthwhile, the trust fund was never intended for that type of project, and that the Legislature violated state law when it did so.
It's the first time in the trust fund's 30-year history that it has been used for construction projects.
The groups say Minnesota statutes specifically state the trust fund "may not be spent for (the) purpose of municipal water pollution control... hazardous waste disposal facilities ...(or) solid waste disposal facilities...."
The groups also claim that using the trust fund money instead of traditional bonds, which are guaranteed in a different way, cost the state an extra $35 million in interest payments for the projects.
The 34-page suit asks the court to declare the spending unconstitutional and to demand the state from spending any of the trust fund money on the projects or issuing any bonds.
The state's Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund is stocked by state constitutional mandate by the state's profits from lottery sales and investment income. Projects — such as fish and wildlife habitat and research projects — are vetted and approved by a panel of lawmakers and citizens, called the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, before they go to the Legislature for final approval. . . .
Other groups pushing the lawsuit include the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, Friends of the Mississippi River, the Izaak Walton League of Minnesota, Clean Water Action Project, Fresh Energy, Friends of Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas and the Minnesota Native Plant Society, Inc.
The lawsuit demonstrates the divide between the conservation groups and the "Greater Minnesota" agribusiness pressure group. In late July, we reported in Ag special interest group asks candidates to pledge unconstitutional raid on Clean Water Fund:
In a document with a Minneapolis return address that's home to national public relations powerhouse Padilla, Minnesota House candidates are being asked by the AgriGrowth Council "A Greater Minnesota" to pledge to raid the Clean Water Fund to pay for a $50 per acre tax credit for farmers taking land out of production under the state's buffer law.
Governor Dayton had preferred to fund the tax credit, which was rolled into the giant omnibus bill he vetoed, with general revenue money. The Star Tribune's Tom Meersman reported in Farmers urge Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders to provide tax credits for buffer property:
Dayton’s office issued a brief statement on the issue on Wednesday: “I strongly support the buffer tax credit through any funding source that is constitutional.” . . .
Read the questionnaire at the earlier post. We'll add the lawsuit to this post when we are able to find a copy to embed.
BTW, AgriGrowth Council, which a few years back launched "A Greater Minnesota," which asks for legislative candidates to pledge to support the raid is a sponsor of the "Greater Minnesota" debate on October 9. Funny how that works.
Logo: Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF).
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