LMIC Funding Jeopardized but the Work Goes On
By David Arbeit, Office of Geographic and Demographic Analysis
On January 22, Governor Tim Pawlenty submitted his budget to the State Legislature for fiscal years 2008 and 2009. Although the total budget request was more than 9 percent greater than the state budget for the 2006/2007 biennium, it provides only $258,000/year to fund the Land Management Information Center. LMIC remains focused on serving Minnesota’s GIS community despite the uncertainty of future funding.
Budget Details and History
LMIC’s budget has declined steadily since 2001, when more than $1.5 million supported LMIC services and operational expenses. By 2007, the appropriation had been reduced to $805,000, a 47 percent reduction. Despite the downsized budget, LMIC has maintained or improved most of its services – in some cases by supplementing its budget with grants. However, $258,000/year will fund only a skeleton core staff of about 1.5, including administrative and support staff. LMIC’s budget supported 13 positions in 1994.
The 2005 Budget Compromise
The Governor’s proposal actually reflects a choice made by the Legislature in 2005, when a compromise was fashioned between budget bills passed by the Senate and the House. The Senate’s bill provided LMIC $1.1 million/year in permanent funding. The House recommended a more modest amount, adding to the Governor’s 2005 recommendation, but only as a one-time change. The final bill approved by the Legislature split the difference, effectively reducing LMIC’s budget by only 34 percent for the biennium but retaining a 75 percent reduction to LMIC’s base budget beyond 2007. The Governor’s current budget retains the base $258,000/year funding level specified in the 2005 budget bill.
Legislative Budget Process
The final fate of LMIC’s budget will be determined by the Legislature as the budget process winds its way towards the end of the Legislative session in May. Budget hearings were held in February by the House State Government Finance Committee and the Senate State Government Budget Division. At those hearings, a number of organizations and individuals offered written and oral testimony about the effects of the budget reduction. Support in 2005 resulted in a helpful budget adjustment; the outcome in 2007 remains to be seen.
LMIC’s Service Commitment
Although the future of LMIC’s funding remains in doubt, LMIC remains committed to serving Minnesota’s GIS community for as long as we are able. Resources permitting, we will continue to maintain the Minnesota Geographic Data Clearinghouse, support the Governor’s Council on Geographic Information, coordinate partnerships to acquire new statewide data – including orthophotography in 2008 – serve as Minnesota’s liaison with federal agencies, and promote integrated approaches that support and leverage the great work being done throughout the state.