GOP-Backed Bills Cut Minn. State Park Funding

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Up to 10 state parks might have to be mothballed until state finances improve under funding cuts included in Republican-backed environmental bills approved by the Minnesota House and Senate, state Department of Natural Resources officials said.

Under the plan, the parks would remain open but campgrounds and buildings probably would be closed and unstaffed, the Star Tribune reported.

Since operating costs vary from park to park, DNR officials said they are uncertain how many parks would be affected by the proposed cuts.

“One may cost $30,000 (a year to operate), while another may cost $1.5 million,” DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr told the Star Tribune.

“Tower-Soudan Underground Mine, for example, is very expensive to operate, but it provides a very unique visitor experience. We could close Itasca State Park and Tower-Soudan, and that would take care of (the cuts),” he said. “Or we could close 10 smaller parks.”

The Senate approved its bill 37-28 Tuesday, and the House vote was 72-57. The House included an amendment that would prevent the closing of any of the state’s 74 parks, but the Star Tribune reports a third of state parks could see their hours and services reduced if the bills become law.

The two versions now go to a conference committee to work out a joint bill to be sent to DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. On Monday, Dayton rejected the GOP-controlled Legislature’s piecemeal budget approach and said he would veto any budget bills with unrelated policy measures.

DFLers accused Republicans of breaking faith with Minnesotans who have favored environmental spending. House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said funding cuts would hamstring an initiative earlier this session to streamline environmental regulations, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

But Senate Environment and Natural Resources chairman Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, defended the cuts.

“By making difficult choices and focusing on priorities today, we ensure a vibrant Minnesota outdoors tomorrow,” Ingebrigtsen said.

To offset reductions, the Senate moved $3 million in lottery dollars from the Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources to the parks budget. That money was supposed to go toward development of the new Vermilion State Park in northern Minnesota.

Landwehr, the DNR commissioner, questions whether such a shift is constitutional. The law specifies that those dollars are to be used to protect and enhance state resources.

“Can you use that money to mow grass or clean toilets? I don’t think so,” Landwehr said.

The House stripped a proposal to allow commercial loggers to cut black walnut trees in two state parks in southeastern Minnesota.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, who proposed the measure, said logging could bring in enough money from the trees to subsidize park operations. But opponents argued it would destroy a state wilderness.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Pork Chop Guy

    I’m ok if some parks close fir a couple of years.

  • v

    “difficult choices” today will ensure “a vibrant Minnesota outdoors tomorrow.”
    Does Ingebrigtsen really believe his own BS?

  • lefty

    if they need money sell the parks sell some of the land that is not being used for anything. Why does the state need millions of acres of land.

    • Joe Hanson

      The DNR does have land sales. Buy some.

    • Paul

      Lets get some of that land on the tax rolls!

  • Ann Campbell

    As numbers of people that visit and use the state parks go up, we start closing campgrounts?? Especially with gas going $4.00 a gallon this summer, so much for staycation at your state park. Thanks GOP.

  • Suggs

    Why not increase the rates of state parks and campground. They’re still far cheaper than private campgrounds and motels.

    • mike

      how does 1 get a message to show here?I’ve sent 2 and neither 1 is included. Are my thoughts not what WCCO wants to show?

      • pat

        Mike you must have said something rational against the wonderful park or park service. I put a note in yesterday stating it is against the law to have an alcoholic beverage in a State Park, which is true just ask to see their rules when you go in. They removed it.

  • Lin

    I usually do not agree with GOP ideas,however onthis one i do.The DNR gets way to much money and its never enough.They are the most worthless program that the government has come up with and should actually be scrapped.

  • Rick G

    What happened to the “Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund
    ” from Lottery proceeds MN voted on (Minnesota Constitution Art. XI, Sec.14

    • IronDioPriest

      Democrats. That’s what happened. They spend every penny that comes into the coffers on things they believe will garner them favor with constituencies.

      • Sick of Tea

        Been banging your head too much Ronnie.

    • married to the truth

      I was thinking that too last night! Also the clean water act!? I know that one is shelled out and just laying on the floor with other great ideas that we voted on. But hey, what do we know right? This scares me! To close state parks of all things here in Minnesota is just something we can’t do. I understand that action needs to be taken but not against our parks. Our medicare system is getting audited top to bottom… why not the rest of the state? I bet our 6 billion would pop up and we would not have to tax anyone or cut anything. Can wcco or anyone answer mine or Richs question??

  • IronDioPriest

    Something’s gotta give. The expenditures of state government are completely untenable. Everybody wants to cut spending on principle, but nobody wants their favorite pet program to be cut.

    The reality is that state government – like federal government – have been spending money for generations on things we ought not to have ever let them begin spending money on in the first place. Now it’s time to pay the piper.

    What is a vital expenditure of state taxpayer dollars, and what is not? Somebody has to make those choices. The GOP is trying. They’ll face opposition and demagoguery from the DFL, who would sooner tax productivity and prosperity to a halt and watch as businesses flee the state than admit that their proclivity to tax and spend has resulted in the financial disaster we face.

    Ask states like Michigan, Oregon, California, etc what happens when Democrats are in control for generations and are allowed to tax the productive class to fund every program they desire in order to buy votes.

    Ask states like Florida, Texas, North and South Dakota, etc what happens when republicans create an economic environment friendly to both business and taxpayers alike.

    Should state park funding be cut? I rather like state parks, and try to camp in one at least a couple times a year. Tettagouche, Temperance, Cascade, Manitou, and Magney are my favorites.

    But I’m a grown-up. I understand that increasing taxes to pay for my personal preferences is an economy-killing proposition in a time when people and businesses are struggling to stay afloat. So if the GOP determines that funds can be saved by cutting state park funding, I’m willing to listen. If only every other Minnesotan was willing to look objectively at THEIR preferred government program/bureaucracy/entitlement/project/infrastructure with the same adult perspective, we might be able to get the budget and size of government under control and AVOID having to cut nice things like state parks.

    • steve

      IronDioPriest…what happens to FL? Their schools are in shambles! I wouldn’t send my kid there if it was the last option. That’s what happens when Rep. cut budgets. As for CA, the last time I checked, a REP. had been governor for many years. So, instead of cutting “:nice” things like state parks, I assume you would prefer to cut those non-essentials like education?

      • IronDioPriest

        I would prefer that everyone stop behaving like little children trying to protect every confiscated dollar they think they have a right to and understand that if we are to ever put our fiscal house in order, everything government spends money on must be examined for waste, fraud, abuse, and common sense, and everything should be on the table for that scrutiny.

        As an aside, surely you’re not going to try to make the case that California’s woes are due to state government having been in the hands of Republicans???

        • PK

          i’m confused, you said it was the Dems fault about the parks because they spend everything and then are surprised when someone blames the Repubs for something else? Hmmm…selective processing I guess.

          I would like to see tax cuts repealed. It would help a lot if everyone paid their fair share. Maybe a flat tax..would have to look into that more. The parks and land are essential for a healthy environment. I dpn’t know what is wrong with keeping some land as natural habitat. Does every inch of this world have to have a purpose that serves man?

        • Fred

          Steve and Iron
          California has a big problem in that the voters pass referendum that cost money without funding the and also have passed referendums limiting tax increases. It is the voters who created a good part of the problem. The ex governor Arnold stated that himself one time on the news.

    • Like It!!

      Well said, we need more fiscal responsible people like you educating America!!

  • Alex V

    Cutting taxes to the rich isn’t going to create jobs, and raising them on the rich isn’t going to kill jobs. A business will only create jobs if there is sufficient demand to require more employees. The states you mentioned that are supposedly “business friendly” also consistently have the lowest quality of life. The bottom line is that we get what we pay for. The standard of living in Minnesota has been in a steady decline in the last 10 years, ever since Ventura cut taxes. That surplus should have been put in a rainy day fund. Ventura’s tax cuts are costing this state $3 billion per biennium. Obviously we have to cut some spending when times are tough, but balancing the budget entirely on the backs of the poor, students, and the elderly without asking the rich to sacrifice anything is unacceptable.

    • IronDioPriest

      “Lowest quality of life” as determined by whom? “Standard of living” as determined by whom?

      Rainy day fund? Are you kidding me? With the DFL in control of state legislature, you could literally see the saliva dripping from their fangs as they lusted after every penny in the state coffers. Rainy day fund. Phhht. The DFL has it spent before it exists, for cripe’s sake.

      Look at how they squandered the budget surplus. They couldn’t allow a penny to remain unallocated. They had to spend it and raise taxes to boot.

      The “rich” finance government. For all practical purposes, insofar as the “poor, students, and the elderly” are dependent on government, they are supported by “the rich”. “The rich” pay a ridiculously inordinate percentage of the total tax burden. We are literally in a situation where we are in danger of a tipping point where a majority of non-taxpayers can elect politicians who will pilfer the minority of productive citizens and transfer wealth through the state to the majority who did not earn it or produce it.

      The “rich” provide jobs. You want them to leave the state, increase their taxes. Illinois is firmly in the grip of Leftists, threatening to raise taxes yet again to support the malfeasance of government, and a prime job provider – Caterpillar inc. – is threatening to leave.At a certain point, business becomes unwelcome.

      The DFL is moving ever closer to such a scenario in MN. that is part of the reason why voters ejected them from state government in the last election.

      Now the GOP moves to try to do what the voters want – cut spending – and the typical wailing and gnashing of teeth commences.

      • Todd

        I would like to see one of these “rich” people who pay 5% of their annual gross income on property taxes like I do. They can afford it. And usually thier are so many tax loopholes for the wealthy they pay far less taxes than the middle class like myself. The problem is that there is so many tax incentives to send your manufacturing to China and NO tariffs so no even playing field. Clinton made business in America stronger by taxing imports. The first thing Bush did was eliminate the tariffs so the rich could make more money, and where are the jobs from the last 9 years of tax cuts for the wealthy? It never hurt business before to be taxed and it won’t now. I am all for tax breaks for business that create jobs with the money, but the wealthy just hoard it, they don’t spend it.

        • Todd

          I meant there instead of thier for those who start juming on it.

          • pay

            Hey Todd, I’m coming over, I want you to open your wallet and give me your money, I know I didn’t earn it, but darn it I feel entitled to it. If you own a home you have more than some and that is not fair. Sell your home and give me the money that is only right.

        • IronDioPriest

          Who is the arbiter that decides who can “afford” what, when the subject is confiscating the produced wealth of an individual to be redistributed to those who did not earn it?

          Once you say “the majority”, you are in an upside-down, untenable, unsustainable tax model that will implode an economy. At a certain point, a person’s private property must be their own, for their own self-determination and self-direction, or you simply have envy-based destruction of productivity and prosperity.

      • Sick of Tea

        Dumbest post ever. Trickle down economics was first implemented under Reagan and was a colossal failure. Ditto for HW Bush W Bush Pawlenty and Ahnold. The “rich” do not provide one single job from their personal income.

        BTW, Caterpillar created 15, 000 jobs last year – all overseas. Their assets should be frozen by the Courts until they figure out if they are an American Corporation or not. If so – hire American. If not – keep their assets and sell to someone who will keep the jobs here.

        • Tired of Water

          So to clarify… STEAL the assets and sell them to someone who will bend to the will of the government? American corporations are doing exactly what the stock holders are telling them to do. Make more money. Your 401k has to make more for you. Guess where it is being invested ;)

        • IronDioPriest

          …and you don’t even stop for a moment and ask yourself why a company like Caterpillar would be motivated to locate jobs overseas…

          You see, jobs are created when an entrepreneur risks his or her money to start a business that will take in more money than it spends. When it is successful, the business grows and jobs are created.

          Confiscatory tax policy works contrary to that, and at a certain point, companies have incentive to relocate to places where tax policy favors the profit model. It’s simple economics. Not “Reaganomics”. It’s economics 101.

          For the record, Reagan’s policies facilitated the largest period of economic middle-class expansion in the history of humanity. You tax-n-spenders can’t rebut that with facts, so you are reduced to wailing and gnashing of teeth.

          Clinton benefited from the massive expansion of the technology sector, but even he wasn’t stupid enough to derail it with anti-business policy.

          George W. Bush was a far cry from a fiscal conservative. But the economy under Bush was strong, and unemployment was sustained at historic lows – that is UNTIL Pelosi and Reid got their hands on the levers of power. The downturn began when Democrats took over the house and senate. Look it up.

      • Walker

        Dayton, Swanson and Otto all won statewide office last election, and they are all DFL. If the majority of the voters wanted cut spending, how did they get elected? There has to be a check and balance there. The majority wanted a sensible solution.
        Ventura proposed cuts and a small tax increase. He was shot down by the legislature. The previous three years there were surpluses.

        Demand for Caterpillars has sunk with the economy. Their markets are overseas. Just like the foreign car companies assemble their cars her, Caterpillar is moving to where their product is sold.

        Any manufacturing jobs in this country the workers are going to have to accept making less. That is what the republicans call free enterprise. When it hits your job, what are you going to call it?

  • sandy

    That is correct Mike, mine was removed and all I said was, show this to Dayton then lets chat about a new stadium. We cannot even afford the leisure luxuries we do have, why spend more tax payers dollars on more?

  • Tony Rotz

    We all have to sacrifice, the rich as well, what is their contribution?

    • Linda

      Please no more class warfare. The rich pay more than you, nuf said

      • PK

        I think they pay more because they have more. But they don’t pay enough. The middle class is slowly shrinking away..nuff said.

        • Linda

          How much is enough? You never have an answer for that because you only bring it up when you or the socialist need more.

        • Norman

          Why don’t you say what you mean. You want some other family to pay for you to go to the park because try as you might you can’t make enough money to get in. What er ya ignorant?

        • Theo33

          PK, So you want to go to the park but you can’t afford it and you want someelse to pay. Get a cup, hit the streets, and do it honestly.

        • ohoh

          pk who decides what is enough, you? I have an uncle who spent his entire career in the state parks service and has retired at 56 with almost his full pay and all benefits. He has a cabin and a $40,000 fishing boat, and a beautiful home. don’t you think we should take it? some would think he has too much. Why don’t you list what you have worked for and let me decide if you have to pay more. Socialisim only works till you spend all of the other guys money.

  • Zander

    Sad it will be difficult to take nice weekend vaca at one of our State’s beautiful parks. Why should I buy a sticker this year? What’s more, is funding is already down so much, it’s hard to find just a trash can, wondering what people do with their trash when there are no receptacles. In a few years we might be as disgusting as NYC

  • Ginger Shepla

    The State Parks have allot of room to cut things. Such as grooming skii trails in the winter. It’s a nice to have, but is it necessary. Possibly stop builing new buildings, use what they already have. Cut back on some of the staff that like to drive around and bully the park goers. Raise the fees, those that use the parks, such as myself, should be the ones paying for it. I could go on. I would hope the parks might come up with a few ideas themselves as well.

  • JB

    no party affiliation here, but what do people really expect? We are 6.2 billion dollars in a hole due to overspending. Just months ago, there was a story of the DNR buying land when they do not hve money to maintain what they have. Where is the logic in that? Do not get me wrong, I love Nature and even hunt, but logic has got to come into play sooner or later.

    • IronDioPriest

      “Logic” and “Minnesota state government” are traditionally mutually exclusive terms.

  • Audit Report

    Under the Minnesota constitution, the DNR can NOT close State Parks!
    FYI, The DNR has $6 Million + in the bank.

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