A key piece of legislation that allows the Minnesota State Lottery to fund environmental projects is set to expire in two years.
State lawmakers are working to make sure that legislation is extended. To be successful, they need to get the extension on the state’s 2024 ballot, and Minnesota voters will have to approve it.
What’s at stake for Minnesota’s lottery-funded environmental projects
Since the environmental funding started in 1988, the lottery has contributed more than $700 million to the state’s Environmental & Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF).
Over the past 13 years, the lottery has contributed more than $425 million. Additionally, since 1991, the ENRTF has funded more than 1,700 projects.
How the lottery-funded program works
The Minnesota Constitution requires 40% of the lottery’s revenue to go to the ENRTF. That money then goes to various project proposals each year through the following process:
- Groups submit proposals for projects they want the trust fund to bankroll.
- The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), made up of 10 politicians and seven citizens, selects which projects to recommend to the legislature.
- The legislature then decides if the funding goes through.
Since 2010, here’s how the top funding recipients look:
|Rank||Organization||Funding Amount Since 2010|
|1||Department of Natural Resources||$229.3 million|
|2||University of Minnesota||$119.3 million|
|3||Board of Water and Soil Resources||$37.6 million|
|4||Legislative-Citizen Commission on Natural Resources||$8.6 million|
|5||Met Council||$7.5 million|
Some of the projects the lottery has funded include:
- A canoeing program that teaches underserved teams about the environmental sciences
- The purchase of land to add to Minneapolis’ Above the Falls Regional Park
- Add four to eight accessible fishing piers and one to two shore fishing sites across the state
- Developing solar-powered robot lawnmowers that can cut weeds on agricultural land
- Studying the impacts of a 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill on birds that migrate to Minnesota
How the ENRTF could look with proposed changes
Democrats control the Minnesota legislature and, based on the party’s typical platforms of conservation and sustainability, continuing the lottery-funded ENRTF would seem like a given.
However, the Minnesota newspaper the Mesabi Tribune recently reported that the fund’s renewal is anything but automatic.
On the positive side, recent extension proposals from the House and Senate bump up the fund’s lottery revenue share to 50% and would set no end date for the fund. On the negative side, the House’s proposal would end lottery funding in 2050.
Both proposals would ban the use of fund money for wastewater treatment facilities. The facilities tend to gobble up a lot of funding, which would end up cutting out other important projects.
The House bill proposes tweaking the LCMRR by adding two more commission members. One of those new commission members would be a member of the Indian Affairs Council. Additionally, the bill would ban lobbyists.