Analysis of Issues on Nov. 7 General Election by Citizens Research Council
Combination of DNR Funds in Constitution Seen Unnecessary, Cumbersome
August 31, 2006
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By: Dave Rogers
(EDITOR'S NOTE: In cooperation with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC), MyBayCity.com will present analysis of the five referendum issues on the Nov. 7 election ballot. A different issue will be highlighted periodically until election day.)
PROPOSAL 2006-O1: Recommendation -- Vote No.
At the November 7, 2006 general election Michigan voters will be presented with a legislatively proposed amendment
to the State Constitution to protect Department of Natural Resource funds.
The proposed amendment would add sections 40-42 to Article IX in the State Constitution. It restructures several restricted DNR accounts by combining them into one large fund, the Michigan Conservation and Recreation Legacy Fund, and places that fund within the State Constitution. The Michigan Non-Game Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund and the Game and Fish Protection Trust Fund would be placed in the Constitution as well. The funds and accounts currently exist in Public Act 451 of 1994, the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.
The amendment is intended to protect the funds and accounts that currently exist in Public Act 451 of 1994, the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, from future diversions for purposes other than those intended.
The language of the proposed amendment is nearly identical to current statute. The proposal would extend the length of the Michigan Constitution by 1,834 words, a full six percent. A lengthy and complex state Constitution limits the ability of lawmakers to exercise the judgment they were elected to provide.
CRC was able to identify only one diversion of resources from these funds and accounts in the recent past, a FY02 diversion of $7.8 million from the Waterways Fund to help balance the state's general fund budget.
Some of the funds and accounts have seen their balances decline in recent years, but those declines can be traced to reduced participation in certain activities and a decline in support from the state general fund.
The activities taxed for these funds and accounts are heavily dependent on the weather. There might be fewer hunters, fishermen, and snowmobilers when the weather does not cooperate, but expenditures are still made out of these funds, thus resulting in reduced balances. As the State's budget troubles have worsened, money these funds received from the general fund has decreased considerably, forcing the revenues from user fees to play a more substantial role in funding the programs.###
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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