Dollars and Sense
The Legislature came back last week from a 10-day break and now it’s a sprint to the finish! This week, the House and Senate roll out their budgets for environment and transportation. With hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, we’re tracking to make sure the state’s investments reflect your priorities. A few things we’re hoping will be included in the environment budget:
We’ve been talking this year about raising and dedicating more money to stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species. HF 1022 (Ward) / SF 1262 (Scalze) would raise about $7 million by increasing the license surcharge paid every three years by watercraft owners. Right now, the fee is only $5, no matter what kind or size of watercraft, and it hasn’t been raised in 15 years.
Minnesota’s persistent shortage of groundwater might have something to do with the fact that large industrial and agricultural users pay around $5 for every 1 million gallons of water they use. And the incentive for them to conserve water is…what? HF 1679 (Wagenius) / SF 1549 (Scalze) follows Governor Dayton’s recommendation to up the ante and put some pressure on them to think twice before draining the state dry.
We’re still “trash talking” about HF 865 (Sundin) / SF 639 (Eaton) which helps us deal with more problem materials in our waste stream. HF 865 puts a plan in motion to collect carpet, paint and batteries so they don’t end up in landfills. SF 639 doesn’t include carpet anymore (it got taken out in the Senate Commerce Committee…the same committee that killed the Toxic Free Kids Act a few weeks ago.)
Get A Move On
We’ve got plenty of good reasons why investing in our transit system is smart for Minnesota: 30,000 new jobs if we accelerate the build out of the system; attracting corporations and young workers to the region; less fossil fuel consumption; cleaner air; less time stuck in traffic; allowing seniors to live independently longer. Now, what are we going to do about it? We’re hoping the transportation finance bills will provide critical funding to build out the metropolitan transit system over the next 15 years, and increase the investment in Greater Minnesota’s transit.
After the bills are out, someone who is much smarter than me (my colleague, John Tuma) will read through them and see how investments in our water, land, air, and transit are adding up. We’ll be passing that intelligence on to you, so stay tuned. The bills will be voted on by YOUR legislators as early as next week so, as always, head over to Check My Legislator to find out who represents you, how to contact them, and how they’ve voted so far on your priorities. They’ll appreciate hearing your thoughts!
What is the Line? It’s Conservation Minnesota’s light, 100% Minnesotan look at conservation happenings at the Capitol as seen by me, a lobbyist who actually doesn’t go outside very much. Please don’t confuse the Line with the always enjoyable musings of the other, taller half of Conservation Minnesota’s government affairs team, John Tuma. You can (and should!) check out his blog here.