Senator Ruud’s Legacy Finance bill protects Minnesota’s natural resources

Today, with broad bipartisan support, the Senate passed Senator Ruud’s (R-Breezy Point) Legacy Finance bill. This year’s bill appropriates $629.9 million to the Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Clean Water Fund, Parks and Trails Fund, and the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Appropriations for the Legacy Fund are a result of an amendment made to the Minnesota constitution in 2008 which allocates three-eighths of one percent of the sales tax to preserving Minnesota’s natural resources. The fund protects drinking water sources, restores wetlands and fish and wildlife habitats, preserves arts and cultural heritage, and supports the restoration of lakes, rivers and streams.

This biennium, the recommendations from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund ($127.7 million) and the Parks and Trails Fund ($101.3 million) were fully funded.

“The appropriations we made in the Legacy Finance bill this year protect the most treasured parts of our state,” said Senator Ruud, Chair of the Legacy Finance Committee. “We are surrounded by incredible beauty in Minnesota, and I am proud of the work we are doing to restore and preserve all we can for generations to come.”

The Clean Water Fund will receive $261 million which is a $49.4 million increase from 2017. This appropriation includes funding for the Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SCWDs), that act as the “boots on the ground” implementing clean water and soil projects that guard Minnesota’s resources. Although the Governor did not fund the SCWDs in his budget, Sen. Ruud prioritized this funding because without the SCWDs, plans made to protect water and soil will not be implemented.

The Legacy Finance bill includes $139.77 million for Arts and Culture and maintains the 47% share allocated to the State Arts Board. It also establishes two grant programs for Cultural Heritage projects and children’s museums. Under the new program, a group seeking money for a new project will apply to the Humanities Center and demonstrate their ability to take on funds for viable projects. There will be increased accountability, ensuring that the funds are used for new projects rather than operating costs. The legislature will no longer decide which children’s museums or heritage organizations should receive the grants. Instead, the organizations will submit a competitive application to earn the funding.