On January 4th, Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith announced their 2017 bonding proposal. Dubbed the “Jobs Bill,” the proposed $1.5 billion package includes much-needed investments in the Minnesota’s water resources, including drinking water and wastewater infrastructure for communities across the state. Here are some of FMR's top bonding or funding priorities.
Water and Legislative Updates Blog
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Following a hectic end to the 2016 legislative session, the Minnesota Legislature adjourned with some important work left undone. Legislative efforts to pass a transportation bill and a bonding bill failed, while a surprise $100 million wording error in a tax bill earned that piece of legislation a pocket-veto from Governor Dayton.
While the Governor has expressed support for a special session, the likelihood of such a session remains uncertain. FMR and our allies strongly encourage Governor Dayton and state legislators to reconvene to complete their work, which includes much-needed funding to protect Minnesota's water resources.
After Gov. Mark Dayton's pocket veto of the tax bill, a special session appears more likely this month. The governor chose not to sign the bill as it contained a $100 million wording error (an "or" instead of an "and"), letting the clock run out and preventing it from becoming law. A June special session will be needed to correct and re-pass the essential bill, making it likely the Minnesota Legislature will also tackle important transportation and bonding business left undone, including vital funding for state water quality improvements.
As the 2016 legislative session came to a close, two of FMR's top legislative priorities were fully funded, the Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program and the University of Minnesota's Forever Green Initiative. Sadly, though, the bonding bill, with millions of dollars in priority funding for community drinking water and wastewater treatment upgrades, failed to pass before the clock ran out. Additionally, while the bigger-ticket items in the effort to artificially augment White Bear Lake were not approved, funds to obtain design-build proposals managed to make their way through at the last minute.
Water levels in White Bear Lake have fallen dramatically in the last decade, leading some to call for augmentation by pumping in water from nearby lakes, each of which is in turn backfilled by the Mississippi River. FMR has long advocated against such an expensive and uncertain system, instead promoting longer-term solutions to address the north and east metro's larger groundwater supply and demand issues. Thankfully, the author of the Minnesota Senate bill agrees and has removed all funding for augmentation while calling for investments in a more sustainable water supply for this area. Yet, $2.2 million in provisions supporting augmenting linger in the House.
As the clock ticks toward adjournment Monday, May 23, the fate of FMR's top legislative priorities will be decided by a bipartisan conference committee of state senators and representatives. In the next few days, FMR will likely be asking all River Protectors and friends of the river to contact their legislators to support FMR's top priorities this session.
The Minnesota Senate voted 39 to 24 in favor of the Senate Omnibus Finance Bill on Thursday, April 28. The bill includes several of FMR's top environmental initiatives, including The Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program and funding for the Forever Green Initiative.
FMR and our partners were pleased to host Governor Mark Dayton and more than one hundred elected officials, farmers, students and other interested residents for a tour of the University of Minnesota's Forever Green initiative on April 19th.
The bill includes a number of key environmental provisions, including FMR's top legislative priority for the 2016 session: The Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program.