Recommended Projects by County
Keeping the Trust
by Drew YoungeDyke
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund provides money for the state and for local counties, townships and cities to acquire and develop public recreation property. It is funded by royalties from oil and gas drilling on public lands as compensation to present and future Michigan citizens for the removal of a non-renewable resource belonging to the people of Michigan.
The citizens of Michigan voted the Trust Fund into the Constitution in 1984 to ensure that politicians didn’t subvert its purpose for political gain. A non-partisan advisory boardreviews and approves all the projects that receive funding. The sole job of the legislature is to approve the Trust Fund board's decisions by appropriating money from the Trust Fund to pay for the projects.
The Trust Fund advisory board has recently recommended 41 projects to receive funding from the Trust Fund in over 25 different counties, plus state acquisitions for the River Raisin Recreation Area in southeast Michigan and regional land consolidations across the state.
Some of the projects include the Acme Shoreline Park near Traverse City, renovating the Rutherford Pool in Ypsilanti, the Sands Lake Parkin Kalkaska County, and developing Pleasant Park in Kent County. These are projects in your communities that will provide families a place to swim, couples a place to go on a first date, your teenager a summer job, hunters a place to hunt, anglers a place to fish, and tourists a place to walk along the water between their hotel, the restaurant where they buy dinner, and the souvenir shop where they buy a memory of Pure Michigan®.
If you live in or near Arenac, Bay, Berrien, Cheboygan, Eaton, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Gogebic, Ionia, Iosco, Jackson, Kalkaska, Kent, Keweenaw, Leelanau, Manistee, Marquette, Monroe, Montcalm, Muskegon, Ottawa, Oakland, Roscommon, St. Clair, or Washtenaw Counties, then there is a project near you that will improve local recreation opportunities and put people to work making trails, resurfacing courts, building parks, and lifeguarding pools. Best of all, this money has been specifically set aside in the Michigan Constitution for these kinds of projects.
None of these projects, though, can move forward until the Michigan legislature appropriates Trust Fund money to them. The legislature has never before altered the board's recommendations, but a large infusion from record oil and gas leases in 2010 has some legislators casting greedy eyes on that money. One way they may seek to free it for other uses is to deny funding to approved projects.
One of the arguments frequently cited for limiting Trust Fund purchases is that local townships have not always received their full Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILTs), which compensate for lost property tax revenue. A law enacted this summer, though, guarantees that all state lands purchased with Trust Fund dollars will have their PILTs paid in full by the Trust Fund. A majority of the funds, also, go directly to local, rather than state, projects. Of the approximately $39.7 million awarded, $29.7 million was awarded directly to a city, township or county. These local units of government cannot hire the workers to begin many of these projects, though, until the money is appropriated. This means that people who could be employed are not.
You voted the Trust Fund into the Constitution to keep it away from legislators, and the only opportunity they have to mess with it is to fail to appropriate the funding or to limit the Trust Fund's legitimate purposes.
*UPDATE, March 1* Thanks to hundreds of Michigan LCV members who took action and e-mailed the appropriations committee, HB 5364 was passed out of committee on February 29 for the full House of Representatives to vote on it. Check in with Great Michigan's Legislation Watch to monitor its progress!
Here is the full list of recommended projects:
This post was originally published on the Michigan LCV blog. Re-posted with permission.