Candidates head to the lakes [UPDATED]Published 8:50am Monday, September 27, 2010 Updated 1:50pm Monday, September 27, 2010
Candidates for Senate District 10 and House District 10A and 10B all agree that designated funds for various projects in Minnesota should be kept intact, and not raided to help pay down a $6 billion deficit. This was the consensus during a candidate’s forum Saturday in Ottertail, sponsored by the Otter Tail County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA).
“It’s important that dedicated funds be used for their intended purposes,” said Dan Skogen, Senate District 10 incumbent who is running for reelection.
Those special funds include a clean water, land, and legacy amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and Legacy Fund dollars for parks and trails.
Skogen took part in the forum at the Ottertail Community Center as did Richard Kagan, House District 10A candidate and Pete Phillips, candidate for District 10B. On hand as candidate forum representative (campaign supporter) for House 10A incumbent Bud Nornes was Le Boyer of Round Lake. Senate District 10B incumbent Mark Murdock was represented by Bob Deutschman of Dead Lake. Senate District 10 challenger Gretchen Hoffman was not present and had no replacement.
Candidates were asked by COLA if Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty did the right thing when he vetoed two Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rule revisions. The governor said the revisions were over-reaching for the affected lakeshore property owners.
“My opinion is that what is good for lakes and streams is good for property owners,” said Skogen. “The governor should have accepted the changed rules.”
Phillips and Kagan also voiced support for needed rule changes. Citizens of Minnesota, said Phillips, are conservation oriented. Kagan added that most lakeshore property owners know that lakes belong to all Minnesotans, not just them.
On the issue of agency oversight concerning the DNR and Pollution Control Agency (PCA), Nornes, in a prepared text read by Boyer, said that positive signs are taking place through a sewage treatment task force in coordination with the PCA and private citizens.
Murdock, through Deutschman, expressed the need for more trail development for all-terrain vehicles. The result, said the District 10B incumbent, will be more tourism and an increase in revenues for towns in rural Minnesota.
On the issue of taxes, Skogen said he would like to see development of a Lake Acres program similar to the Green Acres program that applies to farmers. Tax breaks, he said, could apply to lakeshore owners who do such things as lakescaping, as part of a Lake Acres program.
Kagan suggested that a “nickel back” on return of bottles in the lakes area might be one way of providing some tax relief to lakeshore property owners. He said that taxpayer fairness is needed and that there’s also a need to teach owners about how to ensure not only healthy lakes but also preserve a healthy lakes area economy.
The candidates took questions from COLA members, on a variety of subjects, including invasive species.
“You can’t have too much regulation when it comes to invasive species,” said Phillips. “If we don’t fund lake protection, our way of life will go by the wayside.”
One COLA member, speaking from the audience, said she had more of a comment than a question. The remarks from Jan Wally, who lives at East Battle Lake, were appreciated by all of the candidates and others in attendance.
“Values in life are more important than the economy,” said Wally.
More about state’s
In November 2008, Minnesotans passed the clean water, land and legacy amendment to the Minnesota Constitution. As a result, over the next 25 years, 3/8 of one percent of the state’s sales tax will be dedicated as follows: 33 percent to a clean water fund, 33 percent to an outdoor heritage fund, 14.25 percent to a parks and trails fund, and 19.75 percent to an arts and cultural heritage fund.
Each year, the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund receives 40 percent of Lottery net proceeds, or about 6.6 cents of every dollar spent on lottery tickets. Since it began in 1990, the Trust Fund has financed a total of 414 projects worth $254 million. Recommendations are made by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).
One of the most important aspects of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment passed in 2008 is the development of a framework to guide future spending from the Legacy Fund for parks and trails. This is an opportunity for Minnesotans to decide how important parks and trails are and to set priorities for projects of regional or statewide significance.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will use the framework to finish a 10-year plan for state park needs that will include the Legacy Fund dollars and traditional sources of funding. The DNR has also been charged to create a 25-year plan for what state and regional parks will look like by 2034.