St. Paul, MN. Earlier today, Governor Walz released his budget for legislative consideration, in which he followed the recommendations of the Clean Water Council for how to appropriate funding from the Clean Water Fund. Freshwater applauds this alignment and encourages the legislature to continue to respect Clean Water Council recommendations during deliberations.
“Ensuring that Clean Water Fund money is well spent is a priority for Freshwater. The Council increased the transparency of their funding process by setting a budget aligned with a strategic plan. They engaged stakeholders from a wide variety of interest areas throughout the months of presentations and deliberations,” said John Linc Stine, Executive Director.
One challenge of this year’s budget discussion was funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), vital partners who work directly with farmers, foresters and landowners to identify problems, provide technical and financial assistance, and implement the projects that make cleaner water a reality. SWCDs had been funded through the General Fund but in 2016 the legislature shifted funding to the Clean Water Fund with the promise to repay the Fund. This stop-gap measure should have been a one-time occurrence, but it happened again in 2018, this time without that repayment promise. The Governor’s budget does not identify a source for SWCD funding, which leaves us concerned that this may happen again. We encourage the legislature to use General Fund dollars for SWCD support.
The Clean Water Funds are part of the Clean Water Land and Legacy funds and are intended to supplement existing funding for state programs, not replace them. “Freshwater supports the work of SWCDs and simultaneously supports efforts to find stable and sufficient funding for them from sources other than the constitutionally protected Clean Water Fund,” Stine added.
– Jen Kader, Senior Program Manager