The Midland Business Alliance (MBA) has come out in support of a statewide ballot proposal that it and other advocates say would dramatically expand outdoor recreational opportunities for residents throughout Michigan.
Michigan’s Proposal 1 asks voters if the state should approve a constitutional amendment to allow more flexibility on how DNR trust fund money can be spent on park-related projects.
Established in 1976, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund receives royalties taken from oil and gas mining on state owned lands that it in turn uses to help fund local and state park projects. Under current law, no more than 25 percent of available trust fund revenues can be used for park development. Most of the money is allocated for land acquisition to build new parks, not maintain or improve them. The Nov. 3 ballot proposal would change the funding formula to allow for more money to be spent on park amenities like fishing platforms, boat launches, children playgrounds, trails and other improvements that help entice people to parks in the first place.
Diane Middleton, MBA’s vice president of advocacy, said the ballot proposal offers far-reaching benefits for residents throughout the state.
“If the ballot measure passes, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund will be updated and expanded, so that more dollars flow toward conversation and recreation,” she said. “Under current law, there is a ceiling on how much the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund can receive. That ceiling would be removed. The dollars come from royalties from private industry.”
The ballot proposal, Middleton said, aligns well with the MBA’s legislative positions to promote economic development while avoiding tax increases whenever possible.
“This is more development without an increase in taxes. The MBA encourages that an increase in taxes be a last resort strategy. We could expect to see more capital improvement projects in our parks as a result of support for this ballot measure.”
Development, said MBA officials, doesn’t have to run counter to sound environmental policies.
“The MBA believes our natural assets must be protected,” Middleton said. “More funding for the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund would enable this to happen through responsible development that encourages citizens to utilized Michigan’s natural recreational assets.”
Proposal 1 has generated support from numerous environmental, business and conservation groups. It needs voter approval because it would amend Michigan’s constitution. Making changes to how revenue in the state’s park-related funds can be spent and removing the trust fund cap of $500 million in principal makes a lot of sense to the MBA.
“The MBA supports efforts to increase economic development opportunities through not only business growth, but also quality of life enhancements,” Middleton said. “The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is a great avenue toward ensuring our state’s quality of life. That makes Michigan a more attractive location for talent and business.”