Analysis of the Governor’s budget shows that, even with a more optimistic revenue forecast, conservation and transportation are the only programs to face double-digit cuts in spending. Conservation Minnesota, an independent watchdog group, shows that the five primary conservation agencies receive general fund reductions of $28.846 million or 11.55 percent cuts from the forecasted base.
“The Governor’s budget proposes deep and disproportionate general fund cuts to conservation agencies,” said Paul Austin, Conservation Minnesota Executive Director, “and raises concerns that Legacy Funds will be impermissibly used as substitute funding.”
The report by Conservation Minnesota shows the governor’s budget properly avoids raiding statutorily dedicated funds and his bonding proposal leaves room for inclusion of conservation projects at traditional levels. In addition, conservation agencies receive $4.2 million of the total FY 2012-13 spending increases of $28 million. After accounting for these increases, the net reduction to conservation agencies is 10 percent, but still greater than other major areas of government. Higher education, for example, faces a 6 percent cut.
“The administration says the deep cuts can be offset with other statutorily dedicated funds and new fees proposed by the Governor,” Austin said, “but some agencies were cut that don’t get dedicated funds and those new fees may not happen.” Austin cited the Board of Water and Soil Resources as one agency cut by 9 percent that receives almost no statutorily dedicated fees to offset spending reductions.
The report lauds the Governor’s recommendation to create a parks and trails fund advisory group as well as the plan to repay the Closed Landfill Fund from raids that took place under the previous administration.