Budget bill empties landfill cleanup fund

Dakota County leaders are upset about a provision in the budget agreement at the Capitol that zeroes out a landfill cleanup fund.

The $8.1 million fund was set aside for emergency response at the state's two largest landfills -- Pine Bend Landfill in Inver Grove Heights and the Burnsville Landfill. The idea is that the money is there to deal with any future cleanup problems.

Inver Grove Heights Mayor George Tourville said it's bad policy to eliminate the fund, even if lawmakers promise to restore it later.

"And the premise is when we have other good years, we'll pay the money back," he said. "Well, it doesn't make sense when we're looking at $8.1 million and we don't need $8.1 million to solve a budget crisis because we have a $2 billion surplus."

Several DFL lawmakers have criticized the provision, which will be among several issues discussed during the upcoming special session.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton had listed "excessive raids" on both the metro trust fund and the Closed Landfill Investment Fund as reason to veto the bill. But budget negotiations between Dayton and House Republicans resulted in some of those provisions being left in the bill.

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Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said the agreement calls for the Closed Landfill Investment Fund to be paid back yet this year, assuming Minnesota's revenues continue as expected.

As for the Metropolitan Landfill Contingency Action Trust account, which affects the Inver Grove Heights and Burnsville landfills, McNamara said the issue needs more study looking at how the money is managed and what it would be needed for.

He said the money had been accumulating unspent for four years with no plan by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to spend it in the near future. Because the landfills are still operating, the companies operating them would be responsible for cleanup in the near term, he said.

"The state of Minnesota is not the responsible party," he said.

But Tourville said local leaders care about the trust fund because money could be needed in an emergency.

"The trust account is very important because for future generations, if something would happen and if at that time there is no trust account, it's going to fall on the taxpayers of cities, counties in the state of Minnesota to pay at that time," he said. "Someone's going to say, 'Wait a second. I heard there was a trust account many years ago, who took the money?'"