Thoughts on the Legacy bill

Bob Dettmer
Guest Columnist

Lately, there has been some questions about the Legacy Funding Finance bill that passed and was made law this session. I’m pleased to say that this bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Dayton. I have always understood the importance of taking care of our environment, and I was pleased to see such strong support from both sides of the aisle for this bill.

As part of the Legacy Funding Finance bill, $22 million was allocated to soil and water conservation districts to implement new buffer policy, which passed in 2015 and was aimed at improving and protecting water quality in our state. This buffer policy was one of Gov. Dayton’s top priorities in 2015 when it initially passed.

In cooperation with Gov. Dayton, the Legislature added $5 million for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in addition to the federal funding that will go to that program.

There is a rising concern from property owners and taxpayers across the state regarding state-owned land. In response to these concerns, the Legislature passed a “no net gain policy” in state land acquisition.

Currently, the state and federal government own approximately 25 percent of Minnesota land. This number does not even take into account the additional land owned by nonprofits, such as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever.

In rural counties especially, government and nonprofit land purchasing decreases the local property tax base significantly, and private property owners are left to make up the tax shortfall. What is more, there is growing concern as to whether the state can actually afford to maintain and build up the land it already owns.

The “no net gain” policy simply requires that, when purchasing land, the state find an equal amount of land to sell back to private purchasers. This will keep property taxes more stable statewide, ensures we are able to responsibly care for the land we already have, and maintains the state’s ability to purchase land. Again, this policy does not prevent conservation efforts by the state, federal government, or nonprofit organizations.

I am pleased with the Legacy bill and overwhelming bipartisan support it received in the Legislature and from Gov. Dayton. Thank you to all of the informed voters from our district who have asked me what we were able to accomplish with this legislation.

Bob Dettmer is the representative for Minnesota House District 39A.