Dan Sparks: The final countdown and the fishing opener

Published 7:49 pm Friday, May 3, 2019

Senate Report by Dan Sparks

Dan Sparks


The Legislature’s work to create a final budget for the state of Minnesota is reaching its final stages. Every budget bill from our various committees has been passed off the floor in both the Senate and the House. Now each legislative body will appoint conference committees to negotiate bills and find compromise. The respective bills that passed in the Senate and in the House will change, and it’s up to us to make them better.

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The biggest responsibility we have as legislators in 2019 is to pass a balanced budget. Right now, the gap between the Senate and the House priorities is a large one. However, there are bipartisan areas of agreement, and I believe we can come together to finalize a budget by our adjournment date. What’s most important is that we build a budget that reflects the shared values of everyday Minnesotans.

One high priority issue has been the establishment of a buffer strip tax credit for our farmers. In 2015, we asked our farmers to give up land to help improve water quality by establishing buffer strips between farmland and waterways. This came at a cost to our farmers, but they are complying with these rules because they understand the great need for maintaining high water quality throughout our state. My colleagues offered an amendment to establish this tax credit for those farmers who are complying, but it was defeated on a party line vote. I’m disappointed we were unable to see this addition through, but we will not give up on this issue.

Another reminder that we are nearing end of session is the Governor’s Fishing Opener, which is being held this year in Albert Lea over Mother’s Day weekend.  The Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener has been a tradition in Minnesota since 1948. It was designed to improve Minnesota’s economy through the development and promotion of the state’s recreational opportunities, especially fishing. The first opener was a cooperative promotion between the state’s resort industry, media and public officials. Today, the emphasis is even broader. It celebrates the kickoff of the summer tourism season. The special partnership continues today with a promotional focus on the host community, as well as recreational opportunities statewide.

The fishing opener is also a great way to highlight our community and will be the first time that Albert Lea has held it. While Gov. Walz is no stranger to southern Minnesota, it nevertheless provides a wonderful opportunity for people from all over the state to learn about the great recreational opportunities and tourist destinations available in Albert Lea. I look forward to seeing Gov. Walz and other elected officials from the state, and I am sure they will leave impressed by the natural beauty of our community.

Once the weekend is over, my colleagues and I will only have one week to finish our work and craft a budget. Though we have our differences, I believe we can come together and put partisan differences aside to pass a final budget that reflects our shared values. Or, maybe we should let whoever catches the most fish decide?

Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, is the District 27 senator.