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E-M:/ Environmental License Plates

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

Of the states that have environmental license plates, does anyone know if
the dollars generated actually enhance the funding for environmental
projects, or are the dollars generated simply offset by the politicians
reducing monies spent from the general fund?

If it is the latter, what can we do to ensure this wouldn't happen should
Michigan put such a plate on the market?

                                                Norm Mika


Extensive review of the programs in many other states was prepared by the
DNR's Natural Heritage Program before the license plate issue was originally
floated.  In fact, a great deal of research went into the types of funding
sources that could be used to secure funding for these programs, which
include the Natural Areas Program, the Natural Features Inventory, the
Endangered Species Program, etc.  The impetus in Michigan was the decision by
Gov. Engler to zero out funding for these programs in 1991 -- he vetoed
funding put into the budget to keep the programs alive.  That veto of funding
in fact suspended the DNR's ability to use the funds voluntarily contributed
by citizens to the Non-game Fund, and tied up federal funds as well.

In all of the states where a dedicated fund of this sort is established it is
earmarked specifically for those programs, and cannot be diverted to other
government programs.  In most cases, they are funding programs that were being
underfunded or unfunded in that state already, so these funds do not/have not
displaced existing funding from general fund sources.  In Michigan, as we have
learned many times, the only secure fund is one that is Constitutionally
established, but because these types of funds are so visibly tied to the
programs they are funding it is extremely difficult, as Engler discovered
after an enormous outcry in 1991, to divert these funds with impunity.  

For more details, you may wish to contact Ray Rustem, Wildlife Division DNR,
who heads up the Natural Heritage Program.

Anne Woiwode

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