Legislators frustrated with the level of income generated from school trust land are proposing changes in the way the land is managed.
Sen. Benjamin Kruse, R-Brooklyn Park, is introducing a bill that would remove the Department of Natural Resources as land manager. It would set up an advisory commission of citizens and legislators, with the goal of boosting income for schools. But some say the land could bring in much more money.
To compare, Kruse said the state of Utah operates with a similar land trust, but are managed more aggressively for profit.
Legislators were contacted by school officials from Utah, where trust lands are managed more aggressively for profit. The visitors discussed a bill that would remove management from the DNR and give it to a group with expertise in resource management, real estate, and related fields.
Most of Utah's revenue comes from oil, natural gas, and coal leases. Minnesota's land is mostly forest land, with some taconite mining.
"There are many, many ways to make the lands profitable without taxing the resources at all," Kruse said. "They've done some phenomenal things in real estate development, some great partnerships with private enterprise and private business owners to make this happen, and I'd like to see us move down that type of path as well."
According to the DNR, trust lands contribute about $17 million per year on average to the school trust fund.
Sen. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said he likes the idea of earning more money for schools.
"We've actually done that over the last few years in a couple of ways, so I'm not sure if I'm sold on a management company from outside the government doing this job," Tomassoni said.