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Natural Resources Trust Fund faces legislative challenge

The Michigan Senate in Lansing.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio file photo
The Michigan Senate in Lansing.

For more than 40 years, royalties from oil and mineral rights on State of Michigan-owned land have gone to theMichigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is controlled by a non-partisan board. It uses the money to buy park land and to help cities and counties develop public recreation areas.

More than 30 years ago voters passed a constitutional amendment that barred the Legislature from raiding that fund.
Republican Senator Darwin Booher says the Trust Fund board refused to fund some development, but claims there’s plenty of money. Booher wants to spend $7.7 million more of the Trust Fund reserves to pay for 43 projects the board did not approve.

Keith Creagh, the director of the Department of Natural Resources, joined Stateside to explain what the non-partisan trust fund is trying to do. 

"What the [Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund] is attempting to do is to maintain the buying power of the trust fund over time," Creagh said.

What happens if the Legislature approves the bill? 

"I do have faith in the process," Creagh said. "Part of what the senator is asking for is a public vetting to see if there are problems with the trust fund, and if there's ways for it to be more efficient and expedient. And that's a fair conversation to have."

According to Creagh, this issue has been explored before and the findings were that the trust fund is working "fairly well" and enjoys broad-based support.  

Listen to the full interview above to hear what else concerns Creagh about Senate Bill 280, his response to the criticism of all of the unfinished projects around the state, and the likelihood that Gov. Rick Snyder will veto the bill if it's passed. 

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