House passes Legacy funding

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Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species could find it tougher to spread north into Minnesota waters.

The Legacy funding bill approved 101-28 by the House April 4 includes $7.5 million to construct fish barriers in the Mississippi River. Another $4.7 million is included in the bill to provide research funding and staff to the University of Minnesota to conduct aquatic research.

Sponsored by Rep, Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), HF2430/ SF2493*, as amended, now returns to the Senate where Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) is the sponsor. The Senate passed the bill 63-0 March 22. If the Senate refuses the House amendments, a conference committee could be called to work out the differences.

“This bill makes the first significant progress in figuring out how to stop invasive species, said Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls).

The anti-Asian carp language is one part of the $105.1 million going to four funds created by the 2008 Legacy Amendment: Outdoor Heritage, Clean Water, Parks and Trails, and Arts and Cultural Heritage. However, the parks and trails section did not receive any funding.

Garnering the most funding for fiscal year 2013 is $97.4 million for the Outdoor Heritage Fund, including the Asian carp funding. Other appropriations are $6 million to the Clean Water Fund and $1.7 million to the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Despite passing by a comfortable margin, House members debated numerous amendments, including one by Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Savage) to use $30 million in Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund money annually for seven years to restore the State Capitol.

Buesgens said that could save the state $116 million in debt service on the proposed $221 million project. “I think we all agree that this building needs to be fixed up and repaired,” he said.

However, using Legacy funds to pay for an entire project challenges the mission of the amendment which is to supplement, not substitute, conventional financing of state projects.

“If this isn’t Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage, I don’t know what is,” Buesgens said. The amendment failed 77-52.

The bill also includes almost $30 million to buy land, including $14 million for the Mississippi Northwoods Habitat Complex and $13.8 million to pay for Phase IV of the Reinvest in Minnesota/Wetlands Reserve.

All that spending to buy public land didn’t escape the eye of Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa), who noted that governments already own nearly 8.5 million acres of land in the state.

“The definition of socialism is when the state owns the capital. And we continue to march continually toward putting this government into ownership,” Drazkowski said.