Take a shot at spending $185 million on clean water

If you had $185 million to spend protecting  and cleaning up Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and groundwater, how would you spend it?

What projects and what state agencies would you decide are worthy of taxpayer dollars? Which would you conclude are low-priority projects that maybe the state can do without?

Here’s your chance to take a stab at answering those kinds of questions.

The Clean Water Council, a 19-member group that advises the Minnesota governor and Legislature on water issues, is seeking public comment on an overall framework of budget priorities and on 64 draft funding recommendations.

This is where you and your opinions and priorities come in. Examine the draft recommendations made by a council committee, and compare what the committee proposed spending vs. the spending sought by state agencies. Comment on those 64 recommendations and on budgeting principles in the council’s on-line survey.

The council faces a Dec. 1 deadline for completing its recommendations for the expenditure of $185 million in expected sales tax revenue over the next two fiscal years.

Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers are not obliged to follow the Clean Water Council’s recommendations in appropriation decisions next year, but in the past they have given a lot of deference to the recommendations.

The $185 million represents 33 percent of the projected two-year proceeds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment that Minnesota voters approved in 2008.

Just over two-thirds of the sales tax receipts is subject to separate sets of recommendations, and will be is split between fish and wildlife habitat, parks and trails, and arts and culture.

The Clean Water Council’s request for public comment  is intended to add some citizen input to a budgeting process driven by the Clean Water Council and by the state agencies the council recommended receive the money. The agencies are: Pollution Control, Natural Resources,  Agriculture, Health, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota  Public Facilities Authority, the Metropolitan Council and the University of Minnesota.

Together, those agencies sought $210 million over two years. So far, the Clean Water Council’s Budget and Outcomes Committee has recommended $191 million. The committee and the full council are expected to refine and reduce that total in meetings in September, October and November.

After you have reviewed the spending and given your input to the Clean Water Council, respond to this blog and tell us what you like about the recomendations and which ones you would change.

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