A coalition of environmental groups from across the state hopes to increase the amount of money the state spends on environmental projects by lobbying this year's Legislature.
It's a lofty goal, but it's difficult to imagine where the funding will come from with a Republican-controlled Legislature that isn't likely to raise taxes and a projected state budget deficit of $700 million.
The Legislature already cannot afford to support all of the state's programs. If lawmakers don't agree to increase taxes, the Legislature will have to trim another large portion of money from a budget that already was trimmed several billions dollars in the last few years.
Schools across the state are cutting millions because the state hasn't increased the per pupil funding; roads and bridges are crumbling because there isn't money to maintain them; and medical costs for seniors and others continue to rise because the state-funded medical programs have been cut.
The environment is important; Minnesotans should be making long-term investments to protect and preserve the state's waters, natural resources and blue skies. But the amount of money the environmental coalition wishes to be restored is a huge chunk of money. The group's lobbying goal is to convince the Legislature to increase its current environmental spending from 1.3 percent of the total state budget to 2 percent, its level before the state's economy headed south. That doesn't sound like much, but 0.7 percent of a multi-billion dollar budget is a lot money.
When the state's coffers were flush with money several years ago, it was appropriate the state spent more money for environmental practices. But now the state faces another budget deficit, and the amount of environmental funding needs to be budgeted accordingly. If the state's budget ever rebounds, that is the time to discuss increasing funding for environmental projects.
-- Faribault Daily News
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