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May 2, 2016
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Legislative Update: Senate releases bonding proposal

The Senate released their bonding bill this morning with a proposal to spend $1.8 billion on public infrastructure projects across the state. The Senate plan includes significantly more park and trail projects than did the governor’s $1.4 billion proposal. Specifically, the Senate proposal includes:

  • $33 million for natural resources asset preservation
  • $1 million for state park campgrounds
  • $6.9 million for renovations at Itasca State Park
  • $19.7 million for state park, recreation area, and trail development, including:
    • $2 million for the Gitchi Gami Trail
    • $2.6 million for the Glacial Lakes Trail
    • $1.3 million for the Goodhue Pioneer Trail
    • $3.3 million for the Heartland Trail
    • $650,000 for the Mill Towns Trail
    • $1.9 million for Cuyuna State Recreation Area
    • $8 million for Lake Vermilion/Soudan Underground State Park
  • $1.7 million for the Mesabi Regional Trail
  • $2.5 million for the Minnesota River Regional Trail in Dakota County
  • $1 million for the Popple River Recreation Bridge in Itasca County
  • $4.5 million for the Red Wing River Renaissance project
  • $1.5 million for Friedrich Regional Park in St. Cloud
  • $10 million for Metropolitan Regional Parks and Trails

The Senate plan – which will undergo several rounds of revisions before the end of session – would be a significant investment in Minnesota’s parks and trails. Unfortunately, however, the Senate bill still leaves many important projects unfunded.

The next major step in the bonding process is for the House to release its bonding bill, which is expected to be significantly smaller than the Senate proposal. For projects not included in the Senate plan, it is critical to reach out to your representative and urge them to include funding in the House bonding bill. Parks & Trails Council will continue working with legislators in both chambers as the bonding discussion continues to evolve.

In other legislative park and trail happenings from last week:

  • Supplemental Budget: The House passed an omnibus supplemental budget (HF 3931) on Wednesday that includes a $2.3 million funding increase for state park and trail operations. On Thursday, the Senate passed their omnibus supplemental budget (SF 2356) which includes $5.3 million in additional funding for state parks and trail operations. Parks & Trails Council is hopeful the two sides will reach a compromise that includes the larger funding amount for parks and trails.
  • Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund: A bill appropriating money from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (SF 2963) was heard by the Senate Natural Resources Finance Committee on Monday and by the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. The bill includes $2,445,000 for state park and trail acquisition, $1,200,000 for the Mesabi Trail, $679,000 for a trail in Tower, and $500,000 for a trail in Fergus Falls. The House version of the bill (HF 2993), which doesn’t include funding for state park and trail acquisition, is awaiting action on the House floor. Parks & Trails Council supports the Senate version of the bill.
  • Legacy Amendment: On Monday, the House Legacy Committee heard presentations from the DNR, Greater Minnesota Parks and Trail Commission, and Metropolitan Council on park and trail grant programs.