Protecting the Douglas J. Johnson (DJJ) trust fund from legislative raids was given a lengthy airing last week when IRRRB commissioners heard recommendations made by an independent task force.
Rather than make a single recommendation, members of the Better IRRRB Task Force presented options to best protect the fund, along with additional suggestions addressing how to insulate the IRRRB from political influence. It currently is structured as a state agency, and the governor appoints the chief executive.
Their discussion emerged in the wake of a 2011 attempt to remove $60 million from the DJJ fund to help lessen the state’s budget deficit.
No decision was made Thursday, but IRR Commissioner Tony Sertich, who was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton, said he intends to formulate a recommendation by June. Based on the options suggested by task force members, it will address how future commissioners are selected, who has ultimate control of the DJJ fund and whether or not the Minnesota Legislature should have final overview of the IRRRB’s annual budget. One Task Force suggestion is to have more local control over all three areas.
“I’d like you to be more forceful and tell us what you’d really like to do,” said State Rep. Tom Alzelc, DFL-Balsam Township.
He and several board members voiced a desire to spin off the fund to a private non-profit foundation, which would decide how the money is spent.
Although numerous municipalities in the Taconite Relief Area have received grants from the DJJ fund, Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, noted they didn’t attend Thursday’s meeting.
“I’m discouraged that the room isn’t filled,” he lamented, noting that local officials are always there when they need money.
Sertich asked board members to seek input from their constituents for inclusion in his final recommendation.