Environmental groups call for another Dayton veto

MN Gov. Mark Dayton
MN Gov. Mark Dayton

Say public works projects are raiding a trust fund.

Posted: May 24, 2018 6:59 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Environmental and conservation groups urged Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday to cancel $98 million in projects funded by what they consider an improper raid on a trust fund that depends on state lottery proceeds.

The wastewater infrastructure projects for smaller communities, and some other projects, are part of a $1.5 billion public works borrowing bill. But the money for them would come out of the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The 23 groups said the trust fund was never meant to be used for big capital projects, which are normally funded with bonds repaid from the state's general fund.

They asked Dayton to use his line-item veto power to cancel them.

The trust fund's projects are normally vetted by the semi-independent Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources. But the idea of tapping the fund for the disputed projects didn't surface until late in the session. The language to allow it wasn't added to the big borrowing bill until the final hours of the session, and the proposal never went through the commission's arduous review process.

However, using bonds financed by the trust fund helped keep the longer list of projects financed from the general fund below $1 billion, a Republican priority.

Rep. Josh Heintzeman, a Republican from Nisswa and a co-chair of the commission, said Dayton shouldn't veto the projects, which he called a creative and appropriate use of the trust fund. One of the biggest things Minnesota can do to protect water quality is to ensure adequate wastewater treatment, he said.

"I think it's really smart what we are trying to do," he said.

Dayton, a Democrat, has not said publicly whether he'll reject any parts of the borrowing bill. He vetoed two massive tax and budget bills on Wednesday that passed in the waning days of the session.

The maneuver late in the session with no chance for public input violates the trust of voters who approved the constitutional amendment that authorized the state lottery and using its proceeds to fill the environmental trust fund, said Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, which drafted the letter.

Current state law prohibits using the trust fund to repay bonds or to fund municipal wastewater treatment projects. The bill would change the statute to allow it. Dayton can line-item veto money for the disputed projects, but not the revised statutory language, if he signs the overall bill.

The groups upset with the move likely would have supported the disputed projects had they been funded through normal borrowing or paid for in cash, said Trevor Russell, water program director for Friends of the Mississippi River, one of the groups that signed the letter.

"The door is now open for future legislatures to raid the environmental trust fund really for any purpose," he said.

Nancy Gibson, a co-vice chair of the commission, expressed frustration with being shut out of the decision and the lack of proper public hearings on the plan. She said the panel already has requests for $191 million in projects statewide for next year, and if the plan goes through there will be "significantly less" money available for them because the fund will have to pay principal and interest on the new debt for 20 years.

"We don't do capital funding unless it's a very unique project," she said. "It's not what the environmental trust fund was designed for."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 604509

Reported Deaths: 7638
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1249671779
Ramsey52513897
Dakota46840471
Anoka42774458
Washington27428291
Stearns22557225
St. Louis18138313
Scott17551136
Wright16379149
Olmsted13399102
Sherburne1202095
Carver1067448
Clay826192
Rice8202110
Blue Earth762644
Crow Wing681795
Kandiyohi667985
Chisago619952
Otter Tail585884
Benton582998
Goodhue483874
Douglas475581
Mower470533
Winona461351
Itasca459763
Isanti440064
McLeod430661
Morrison424762
Beltrami407861
Nobles407650
Steele397816
Polk389072
Becker386755
Lyon363853
Carlton353056
Freeborn347033
Pine334923
Nicollet331245
Mille Lacs311854
Brown307840
Le Sueur297326
Cass286232
Todd285633
Meeker263443
Waseca238023
Martin235332
Roseau211221
Wabasha20793
Hubbard196641
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Redwood176539
Houston174616
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Fillmore157610
Faribault154719
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Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
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Watonwan13579
Rock128719
Jackson122712
Pipestone116726
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11306
Murray107110
Swift106918
Koochiching95418
Stevens92411
Clearwater89016
Marshall88817
Lake83220
Wilkin83213
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5948
Lincoln5853
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48193
Red Lake4017
Traverse3775
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 371101

Reported Deaths: 6053
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58263640
Linn21221339
Scott20308248
Black Hawk16157312
Woodbury15240230
Johnson1462385
Dubuque13510211
Dallas1129199
Pottawattamie11228174
Story1071648
Warren583791
Clinton561593
Cerro Gordo554095
Sioux517574
Webster515894
Muscatine4882106
Marshall486976
Des Moines467672
Wapello4338122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper421172
Plymouth403181
Lee382356
Marion366076
Jones300957
Henry294637
Bremer288461
Carroll287152
Boone268634
Crawford268240
Benton259855
Washington257351
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232651
Jackson225242
Clay216727
Kossuth216166
Tama212071
Delaware211143
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Page194522
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Fayette186643
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Clayton171057
Butler166335
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Mills163824
Floyd163442
Cherokee159338
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
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Hancock150334
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Emmet135841
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Union130035
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