As another Beneficiary Awareness Month has wrapped up, we thought it would be a great time to pull back the curtain and go behind the scenes on how decisions are made to choose which beneficiaries receive funding from the Minnesota Lottery.

In the last few weeks, Governor Walz signed a bill appropriating nearly $80 million from the lottery-funded Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) to support 101 projects around Minnesota. These projects include additional funds for the Voyageurs Wolf Project, research into protecting the state’s walleye population, funding for outdoor educational opportunities, and many more exciting initiatives across the state.

Each year, 40 percent of the Minnesota Lottery’s return to the state is dedicated to the ENRTF to be used “for the public purpose of protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources.” Since 1991, the lottery funded ENRTF has provided approximately $1 billion to over 1,600 projects that have collectively benefitted each of Minnesota’s 87 counties.

Nearly all these incredible projects begin the process of receiving funding through the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). The LCCMR is a 17-member body empowered to make funding recommendations to the legislature for special environmental projects, primarily funded by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The commission is made up of 5 state Senators, 5 state Representatives, 5 citizens appointed by the current governor, 1 citizen appointed by the Senate, and 1 person appointed by the House. Annually, the LCCMR issues an RFP for interested groups to submit their project proposals. Those proposals then go through a rigorous scoring and vetting process to narrow the list down to top-tier submissions. Those groups then get the opportunity to present for the commission and argue the importance of their project and why they deserve to be recommended by the LCCMR. For example, 218 proposals were submitted last year before the commission arrived at their final list of 101 recommendations. Additional information on the LCCMR can be found here.

It's important to remember that the LCCMR is an advisory body and only offers their recommendation to the legislature. Ultimately, the final decisions are made by the Environment Finance committees in both the House and Senate, with input from legislative leaders and the governor’s office. While the legislation created each year, affectionately known as the “LCCMR bill”, generally accepts the majority of the LCCMR’s recommendations, for a variety of reasons they sometimes remove or add additional projects before a final vote. While both sides of the aisle have their own priorities at the legislature, the LCCMR bill is often a bipartisan affair that received broad support from both parties.

Since the Minnesota Lottery’s inception, more than $1 billion in lottery revenues have been returned to the state in the form of funding for the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. So wherever you are in Minnesota, you are near a project that has been impacted by lottery funds. In the fall of 2024, voters will have the opportunity to renew the dedication of lottery dollars to support the environment through 2050.