Lawmakers craft legacy bill

Hartwell

By Danielle Killey

Studying the Minnesota film industry, funding public television and conducting water quality studies are a few ways lawmakers propose spending some of the nearly $300 million from the state’s legacy fund next year.

They are working to hash out a plan to split the money that comes from a sales tax increase of three-eighths of a percent. Voters approved the increase in 2008 for outdoors, arts and environmental projects.

“Our goal is to have many parts of the Legacy Fund working together,” House Legacy Committee Chairwoman Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

Legacy bills finance a number of individual projects, but also put money toward grant programs where people such as artists can apply for funds.

Lawmakers, including Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, worked to add a number of individual projects to the plan.

Many of his proposals in a Friday committee meeting would fund Civil War-related education and research.

He also supports study of the economic impact of motion pictures in Minnesota. Earlier in the legislative session he and Kahn introduced a plan to put state money toward films made in Minnesota. Kahn said they are still working out how to fund that and said the program likely would need about $10 million “to get us noticed” in the film industry. Some or all of the money could come from the legacy fund.

Recommendations on how to spend funds designated for protecting wetlands, prairies, forests and wildlife come from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

“We’ve done a very thorough job,” council Chairman David Hartwell said of vetting projects requesting the more than $98 million available next year.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he expects the Senate’s outdoors spending proposals to align closely with the recommendations.

The House Legacy Committee is considering a shift from an annual funding process to a biennial process for the funding, a move Hartwell said could make it harder to address pressing problems. He said the annual budget process allows for some funding to tackle issues such as the possible invasion of Asian carp, which received some money last year.

The clean water fund, expected to have roughly $92.7 million in projects for 2014 aimed at protecting and restoring the state’s water quality, and the about $39.9 million in parks and trails funding will come before the committee starting Monday, Kahn said. She said the plan is to move everything forward together in one bill Wednesday.

The Senate proposals will go through a number of committees before being compiled.

Bakk said they likely will continue funding similar projects as in years past, but lawmakers can make changes and propose amendments.

Discrepancies between the House and Senate plans would have to be hashed out in a joint committee later in the legislative session, which must end by May 20, if approved by members.

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Examples of legacy-funded project proposals for 2014:

– $18.25 million to support artists and arts organizations

– $10.6 million for history programs in the state and local, county, regional or other organizations

– $7.96 million for Pheasants Forever to acquire land for wildlife management

– $5.3 million to protect and restore native prairie, grasslands, wetlands and savanna

– $3.95 million for the Minnesota Public Television Association

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