Over 150 years ago, Minnesota received several land grants from the federal government to be held in trust for specific purposes, such as schools. On Wednesday of last week, I attended a joint hearing of the Environment, Energy, Natural Resources and the E-12 Education Budget committee regarding Minnesota’s school trust lands.
Today the state holds about 2.5 million acres of school trust land and about 1 million acres of land with mineral rights. In the past, money generated from these lands has been allocated to school districts, with a general fund subtraction. In other words, if a school district receives $1 from the land trust it would lose $1 from their general fund. In 2008, the legislature permanently eliminated that subtraction. This amounted to additional revenue per pupil. Belle Plaine received $34.2 per pupil unit, Northfield $32.5, and Cleveland received $30.3. Other senate district 25 school districts fell somewhere between that 30 and 35 dollar increase.
Although the future of mineral mining in Minnesota is uncertain, the potential is apparent. For example, three mineral deposits in the Duluth area alone contain resources that could generate royalties of $1.4 billion at today’s metal prices if mined over a period of 20-25 years. There is a dramatic growth in world demand for metals, spurred mostly by growth in Asia and emerging markets.
In state statute: The goal of the Permanent school fund is to secure long term economic returns consistent with Minnesota constitutional fiduciary responsibilities, with sound natural resource conservation management principles.
This committee and others will continue to look for ways to maximize this potential source of income. We will continue to look for ways to provide badly needed revenue and relief for school district budgets across the state of Minnesota. I am excited about the possibilities.