Minnesota, Missouri fund natural resource efforts through sales tax programs — so why not Wisconsin?
Legislators are looking for new ways to help fund Wisconsin’s natural resources programs.
They need only look west.
Minnesota amended its state constitution in 2008 and increased the state sales tax by three-eighths of one percent. The new revenue goes to the Minnesota Legacy Fund.
One of the four fund recipients is the Outdoor Heritage Account, which receives one-third of the proceeds “to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for fish, game and wildlife.”
“Each one-eighth percent raises about $100 million a year,” said Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation. “History centers, community theaters, park and trail development are all being improved by paying cash,” he said.
Dave Zentner, of Duluth, a leader in environmental and “hook-and-bullet” organizations, said the key was bringing in many different organizations and interests.
“It was a broad vision about fish and wildlife, but not just fish and game. It was about clean water, parks and trails of statewide importance, and the legislature was lobbied successfully by the arts and culture folk,” Zentner said.
From 2009 to 2012 this slight tax increase generated more than $1 billion, of which more than $300 million went to the Outdoor Heritage Fund.
It took 10 years to put this together.
Where supporters first were interested only in ducks and geese, when they added clean water the “soccer moms” showed up in support. When parks and trails were added, that brought in more urban people.
“It can’t be just hunters and anglers, and not just environmentalists. They need each other every day, and they have to build a mutual community that crosses political partisanship and NGO partisanship,” Zentner said.
A slight increase in the sales tax has also been used in Missouri to fund natural resources for an even longer period of time.
The genius of this concept is that it spreads the cost to everyone; future beneficiaries also will pay some of the cost and visitors coming to the state to use the natural resources will help shoulder the load.
This begs the obvious question: Why not Wisconsin?