The Wisconsin state capitol building during summer with grassy lawn and green trees and a purple sky in early evening.

Spend some of state’s surplus cash to save nature

Revisiting the political maneuvering that nearly scuttled the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs Nature Preserve offers guidance on how the Wisconsin state government should spend some of its enormous cash surplus.

The Ozaukee Press Editorial Board is proposing to use some of Wisconsin’s record tax surplus to fund conservation efforts. In a December 7th editorial, they write, “some of the state’s mega surplus can be used to protect future initiatives to preserve natural areas in Wisconsin from the political forces that nearly sabotaged what is now a county park on ruggedly beautiful, once threatened land on the Port Washington lakeshore.”

The Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs project, led by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, only came together after Governor Evers stepped in and funded the project with federal dollars over which he exercises broad discretion. An anonymous objection from the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee stalled the project for months.

The Ozaukee Press writes, “The Stewardship Program was created by one of the most impactful pieces of bipartisan legislation in Wisconsin history … Every survey of Wisconsin residents’ opinion of the program has shown overwhelming public approval.”

The editorial board suggests that “a portion of the state’s cash surplus should be used to pay off the Stewardship Program’s current debt of just over $700 million and provide a lump sum balance that would fund stewardship efforts for years to come without taxpayers having to pay another dime in interest.*

“With financial stability assured, the Legislature should put an end to the absurd loophole that corrupts the stewardship grant approval process by allowing a single anonymous member of the Joint Finance Committee to block a DNR-approved grant for any reason.”

* According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the outstanding principal balance on Knowles-Nelson debt is about $453 million as of December 2022.

Featured image by Jake Pfaffenroth, 2015.

Share this post

Team Knowles Nelson badge with a bird taking flight.

Thanks! We'll keep you in the loop about Team Knowles Nelson.