Voters to Decide if the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fund Can Increase Spending for State Parks

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by Scott McClallen

 

Michigan voters will see a proposal on the November 3 ballot asking if the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) should increase the spending allowance on recreational improvement projects each year.

The NRTF, created in 1984, is a constitutionally restricted fund to develop and purchase public land using funds generated from interest and earnings on state-owned mineral rights programs.

“The Michigan NRTF has served its original purpose well since its establishment nearly five decades ago,” Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan Township, said in a statement.

“These reforms are timely to help ensure that today’s needs are better funded, which is why I support this ballot proposal to change the state constitution. We should be focused on taking better care of the attractions and assets we have, including our parks, trails and water access. This proposal will provide needed flexibility while allowing use of the funds for generations to come.”

The funds’ board sets criteria for which projects get funding.

Current law limits a maximum of 25% of NRTF funding spent on redevelopment or maintenance projects.

Proposal supporters argue this limits maintenance of parks across the state.

“I support the measure because it will only provide more access to Michigan’s fantastic outdoors,” Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Travis City, said in a statement. “Proper maintenance is a key part of providing safe, accessible trails and facilities and will also help save money for other projects in the long run.”

The proposal aims to switch the fund project spending percentage from a maximum of 25 percent to a minimum of 25 percent spent on land acquisition, and another minimum 25 percent spent on development and renovation of public recreation facilities.

The proposal aims to impact the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund (SPEF), funded from the sale or lease of state-owned oil, gas, and minerals.

The proposal seeks to remove the NRTF’s funding cap, and once SPEF revenue tops $800 million, additional revenue would flow to the NRTF.

Whether the proposal passes or not, the outcome won’t raise taxes.

“The Natural Resources Trust Fund dollars are instrumental in helping our local U.P. communities invest in their parks and recreational facilities,” Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, said in a statement. “Without this match from the state, so many of our important projects would not be able to happen if it fell on local government to fund them on their own.”

Michigan lawmakers voted to place this amendment on the November 2020 ballot.

Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, called the change a “much-needed revision in the state constitution.”

Jon Mayes, recreation grants manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, told The Center Square his department is neutral on the measure.

Mayes said the NRTF fiscal year 2019 end balance was $617.9 million, which broke down to $500 million in accumulated principal and $117.9 million in unexpended interest and principal earnings.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy supports the measure, Marc Paso, DRC director of communications, said.

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Scott McClallen is a reporter at The Center Square.
Photo “Porcupine Mountain State Park” by Jim Sorbie CC2.0

 

 

 

 

 

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