Governor, DNR proposing one-time spending boost of $287.4 million
The Governor wants to tap the record state surplus and raise fishing license and other fees for a budget boost to modernize and address deferred infrastructure projects.
ST. PAUL — Governor Tim Walz is proposing to tap the state’s record $17 billion surplus and raise fishing licenses and other fees to provide an additional $287.4 million for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in the next two years.
The governor called the one-time spending boost a “generational investment” for the outdoors when he announced the first portion of it to stakeholders attending an annual DNR sponsored Round-table one week ago Friday in Bloomington. He emphasized that the investment in the outdoors was important both to the state’s economy as well as the well being of its citizens, especially children.
“If they cannot enjoy a healthy access to outdoors and outdoors activities it is going to have a lasting impact on their mental health,” said the Governor when speaking of the importance of the outdoors to children at the Round-table.
On the economic side, the outdoors contribute over $9.9 billion to our economy each year and supports more than 91,000 jobs, according to the DNR.
DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen also emphasized the importance of the investment in the outdoors to the environment and economy as she outlined the proposal to reporters on a video conference held on Tuesday of this week. “A once in a generation opportunity, one time dollars to modernize,” is how the commissioner described the funding.
The funds would complete infrastructure projects that have been on the DNR’s project list for years, but failed to win funding from the legislature. Improvements to the state’s fish hatcheries — which support the state’s $4.4 billion a year fishing industry — and to infrastructure in state parks and public water accesses were cited as among the most pressing needs.
The New London fish hatchery is among those on the list for improvements. The funding would be used to improve bio-security at the facility as well as the rearing ponds.
Area state parks are also on the list for deficient buildings and structures.
Strommen told reporters that there are 100 public water accesses that the DNR has identified to modernize.
The overall spending proposal includes surplus monies from the general fund, new revenues from fee and license increases, and bond funds if a capital investment bill is approved.
License, fee increases
The proposal would increase the cost of an annual, resident fishing license by 20% from $25 to $30. A nonresident license would increase 35% from $46 to $62.
Fees for a day pass to state parks would increase by 42% from $7 to $10. The annual permit would increase 29 percent from $35 to $45.
Stommen said fishing licenses and state park admission fees have not been increased since 2017.
The proposal would also increase fees for registering boats, based on their size, and increase the aquatic invasive species surcharge by nearly 89% from $10.60 to $20.
The fees for water permits and working in public waters would also be increased.
The one-time spending would be in addition to the DNR’s base budget, which is $1.3 billion in the current biennium, according to Bob Meier, assistant commissioner.
The total includes two packages: A $118 million “Get Out More” proposal and $142.6 million for “Connecting People to the Outdoors.”
The Governor’s budget is now headed to the Legislature, where the DFL holds the majority in both chambers. At the Round-table, the Governor urged stakeholders to support the investments. He pointed out that in terms of supporting investments in the outdoors, he was preaching to the choir while addressing stakeholders at the event. But he added: “We need more choir members and we need them to sing louder.”
See the One Minnesota proposal.