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The House passed legislation allocating $540 million in Legacy funds to environmental and cultural programs by an 86-45 margin on Saturday. The bill drew support from 66 Republicans and 20 Democrats.

House passes Legacy bill after lengthy debate

Rep. Dean Urdahl (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

The House passed legislation allocating $540 million in Legacy funds to environmental and cultural programs by an 86-45 margin on Saturday. The bill drew support from 66 Republicans and 20 Democrats.

The legislation allocates revenues from a sales tax increase that voters approved through a 2008 referendum. The funding  includes $187 million set aside to restore and protect the outdoors, $178 million for clean water projects, $77 million for parks and trails, and $101 million for arts and culture programs.

Passage of the Legacy bill followed more than four hours of debate and consideration of  20 amendments. Debate on the bill didn’t break down along typical partisan lines, with urban and suburban legislators frequently sparring with their outstate counterparts. Rep. Bev Scalze, DFL-Little Canada, for instance, offered an amendment that would have increased the share of parks and trails dollars going towards metro-area projects. It was voted down 79-54.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, offered an amendment to spend $17 million on renovating the Coon Rapids Dam in order to protect against invasive species. The proposal garnered just 38 votes, with several legislators expressing concern that spending for dam renovations properly belongs in a capital investment bill.

Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, complained that 78 percent of the dollars in the Legacy bill are being funneled to projects outside the seven-county metro area.  “This is not balanced,” Wagenius said. “It is not fair to those of us in the metro area.”

But Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, chief author of the legislation, stated that the allocation process was very similar to previous years. “We have tried to be fair,” Urdahl said. “It’s a good bill.”

The full Senate has not yet take up the Legacy bill. There remain significant differences between the two chambers.

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