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Sen. Torrey Westrom: Dayton's line item veto good for rural interests

ST. PAUL -- Recently, Governor Mark Dayton signed the Omnibus Legacy Bill, House File 1183, but line item vetoed the section regarding the Metropolitan Regional Parks funding. I applaud his line item veto, which was consistent with the request and urging of several of rural legislators. His veto was in line with the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, made up of multiple citizens and legislators.

In a last minute deal, several metro legislators in leadership positions tried to do an end-of-session Legacy Fund raid for metropolitan regional parks at the expense of projects throughout the state. Even though the $6.3 million appropriation they tried to raid was forced through the legislature, their provision was not sufficiently examined by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

Governor Dayton and rural legislators understand the importance of making sure funding goes to projects that are adequately observed by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. That is why there was a bipartisan letter sent to Governor Dayton by seven senators right after session adjourned requesting a veto of this last minute power play by some metro legislators. The letter was signed by Senators Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Plummer), Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids), Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa), Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), David Senjem (R-Rochester), and me.

The Omnibus Legacy Bill spends dedicated sales tax revenue as approved by the voters in 2008. The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution was approved to protect drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve arts and cultural heritage; to support parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. 

The Legacy Amendment increased the state sales tax by three-eighths of one percent beginning on July 1, 2009 and will continue until 2034. The additional sales tax revenue is distributed into four funds: 33 percent to the clean water fund, 33 percent to the outdoor heritage fund, 19.75 percent to the arts and cultural heritage fund, and 14.25 percent to the parks and trails fund. 

We need to continue to protect, enhance, and restore the natural resources of the State of Minnesota. We should support and adhere to the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and not allow one sub-section of our state to take more than their fair share. I am glad Governor Dayton listened to this important issue and recognized the last minute power-play as “out of bounds.”

As always, I encourage and appreciate your input. I can be reached by telephone at(651) 296-3826 or (855) 407-7386, by e-mail at, or via mail at 107 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.