We’re finally nearing the (hopeful) end of the 2015 legislative session; Legislators have until Monday, May 18 to pass a budget or else they will have to be called back for a special session. As legislators sit down to work towards a budget compromise, now is a good time to remind them that funding parks and trails is important for Minnesota.
A week ago, both the House and Senate passed their natural resource budget bills, and as you’ll recall, the two bills had substantial differences where parks and trails are concerned. To reconcile those differences, a conference committee of ten legislators has been appointed to reach a compromise. These are the legislators who will be crafting the final park and trail budget bill and the legislators that need to hear from you.
Who you should contact:
If you know any of the legislators listed below and/or they represent you at the capitol, that is the best person for you to contact. If not, we recommend you contact your local legislators, tell them why you support the Senate version of the bill, and ask them to talk to members of the conference committee (listed below) on your behalf.
|In the House…||In the Senate…|
|Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings)||Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm)|
|Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake)||Sen. Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin)|
|Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar)||Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin)|
|Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau)||Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville)|
|Rep. David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake)||Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne)|
What you can say:
Parks & Trails Council supports the Senate version of the budget, both because it provides substantially more funding for parks and trails, but also because it does so using the general fund rather than one-time funding transfers. General funds are the traditional method that Minnesota has funded parks and trails, and our research has found they remain the most appropriate method. If you want to see a detailed side-by-side comparison of the two bills, click here, or see the bottom of this email for our summary.
The main points to consider emphasizing for legislators:
- The Senate bill would appropriate $47 million to state parks and trails, which is the same amount they received in the final biennium before the Legacy Amendment passed (in FY 2008-09). Restoring general funds to pre-Legacy levels would be a strong statement that Legacy dollars are being used to supplement traditional funding sources, as they are constitutionally required to do.
- The funding increase is sorely needed. Over the past decade, camping seasons have been shortened; parks are being co-managed; and visitor services such as mowing, restroom cleaning, and trail patching have been reduced. The Senate proposal is enough to prevent further reductions in service and address the associated costs of operating our state park and trail system.
- State parks and trails benefit all of Minnesota, and especially Greater Minnesota. Seventy of Minnesota’s 75 state parks, and approximately 90% of Minnesota’s state trail miles, are in Greater Minnesota. Yet 35% of state park visitors are from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area, and another 18% are from out-of-state. This means state parks and trails bring money into Minnesota’s rural economies. The DNR estimates state park visitors generate $372 million in economic activity; That’s 10 times the cost to operate and maintain them on an annual basis!
- State parks and trails simply make Minnesota a better place to live and visit. They account for 32 of the top 50 tourist destinations in Minnesota. They improve our health by encouraging people to get outside and exercise. They protect and preserve the natural gems of our state, including 285 rare species and 80 types of native plant communities. And you can probably tell many stories of how parks and trails have been special for you and your family.
Please let us know if you have any questions. We’ll keep you updated as the session winds towards its finish line next week.