Another shot at 3/16s

Proposal includes oversight committee

By Rob Drieslein

Editor

St. Paul State Sen. Bob Lessard, DFL-International Falls,
unveiled legislation last week that, if passed, would give
Minnesota voters the opportunity to dedicate some sales tax
revenues to fish and wildlife habitat management, state parks and
trails, and zoos.

The funding proposal, modeled after a similar mechanism in
Missouri, would constitutionally dedicate 3/16 of 1 percent of the
general sales tax to natural resources. It would divide the
revenues generated as follows: 45 percent for improving, enhancing,
and protecting fish and wildlife habitat; 25 percent for state
parks and trails; 25 percent for metro parks and trails; 3 percent
for grant-in-aid trails; and 2 percent for state zoos.

If the bill passes, it would place the following question on the
fall 2002 ballot.

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide funding
beginning July 1, 2005, to improve, enhance, or protect fishing and
hunting habitat and other resources and for state parks and trails,
metropolitan parks and trails, grant-in-aid trails, and state and
local zoos by dedicating the sales and use tax of 3/16 of 1 percent
on taxable sales?”

If the majority of the public approves, the funding change would
provide approximately $115 million in additional funding for
Minnesota fish, wildlife, parks, trails and zoos beginning July 1,
2005. The delay would allow the Legislature to compensate for any
revenue allocation changes necessary with the diverted funds,
Lessard said.

The bill’s language clearly states that the money the bill would
dedicate shall not be used as a substitute for “traditional funding
sources, but shall supplement traditional sources of funding for
those purposes.”

Lessard sponsored a similar bill last year, but the 2001 version
would create a Heritage Enhancement Fund and Heritage Enhancement
Council to determine spending of the 45 percent dedicated to fish
and game.

Eleven appointed members would comprise the council, and groups
would apply for monies through the body. Its membership would
consist of:

Two members of the State Senate, appointed by the Senate
Subcommittee on committees of rules and administration;

Two members of the House appointed by the Speaker of the
House;

Three public members representing hunting and fishing
interests;

Three public members representing hunting and fishing appointed
by the Speaker of the House; and

One public member appointed by the governor.

Two of the legislative members would be non-voting, and one
member from the Senate and House must be from the minority party.
Members would have two-year terms.

Co-sponsors in the State Senate include Dan Stevens, R-Mora,
Jane Krentz, DFL-May Township, Senate Minority Leader Dick Day,
R-Owatonna, and Randy Kelly, DFL-St. Paul.

Lessard and chief House author Rep. Mark Holsten, R-Stillwater,
intend to formally announce the new legislation at a press
conference at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 15 in Room 181 of the State
Office Building.

“I’d like to see as many people there as possible,” Lessard
said.

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