On Wednesday, February 17th the Senate announced their proposed supplemental capital budget. This is the source of state dollars for project and construction funding. WACD is cautiously optimistic with the initial results of the Senate version, recognizing that there are still several steps between this point and final adoption.
Included in this draft budget are two increases to funding for conservation districts and the Commission: $2 million for the Farmland Protection and Land Access (FPLA) and $3 million for the Voluntary Stewardship Program. WACD is satisfied with this proposal, as it meets the requested amount for the Commission to launch their portion of FPLA and would inject much-needed funding for cost-sharing and other projects into VSP.
We knew in advance this year’s capital budget would be smaller compared to the previous supplemental budget, but with more federal funding available in certain areas. The Senate’s proposal includes $94.8 million of funds from issuing state bonds, $561.6 million still available from last year’s American Rescue Plan Act, and $290 from the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (also known as the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal”).
The major source of any new funding will be on the operating side. That is where the legislature plans to focus any increase in natural resource funding, and “put their money where their mouth is.” The operating budget is already scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Ways & Means Committee on President’s Day which means the details should become public by the weekend.
Once all proposals have been released by the House and Senate, WACD will provide a comparison of the various programs and which version includes more funds for which program. That information can be used by districts to help inform their legislators about their preferences.