Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Dedicated funds

Joe
Albert

Associate Editor

Ouch. That’s the only logical reaction after
the Senate dedicated funding bill, which appeared to have plenty of
wind in its sails, was defeated this week in the Taxes
Committee.

To call the development a stunner probably is overstating
things, since it was evident beforehand the vote would be close.
Still, you would like to believe Senate Majority Leader Larry
Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, holds enough sway to get the bill
through a committee that includes nine Democrats and four
Republicans. He did, though, say he has enough votes to pass it off
the floor and vowed to resurrect the measure.

Let the political wrangling commence.

The problem is, arguments against dedicated funding during
Senate and House hearings (it passed its first House committee,
9-5, on Wednesday) are no different than they’ve been in the past:
arts or no arts, tax increase or no tax increase, and the wisdom of
tying the hands of future legislators by amending the state
constitution.

Few people believe it is desirable to amend the constitution. In
a perfect world, it wouldn’t be necessary, and conservation and the
environment would be funded like the priorities they should be.
That would be nice, but if history is a guide, that’s not going to
happen. The outdoors will continue to be shortchanged.

The massive bipartisan failure to fund conservation has brought
us to this point. That we’re even talking about the need to
constitutionally secure money speaks, a) to the fact that natural
resources in the state are in serious trouble, and b) that
lawmakers for years haven’t made it a priority to fix them.

That’s not to say nothing good has happened, or that there
aren’t legislators who care deeply about reversing the trend. But
those individual efforts, to this point, haven’t been enough.

To have an effect on the state as a whole, a huge influx of
money – $100 million a year for habitat, another $100 million for
clean water – is necessary.

Is increasing taxes the best way to raise that money? Nope. But
lawmakers have shown so little appetite to fund conservation with
existing dollars, we can’t expect they’ll carve out part of the
current sales tax for it.

Nobody’s asking legislators to raise taxes on their own; if a
tax increase passes, each and every one of them will have a
built-in curtain to hide behind. All we’re asking them to do is
deliver a ballot question that has a reasonable chance of passing
then sit back and LET THE CITIZENS OF THIS STATE MAKE UP THEIR OWN
MINDS. It’s beyond me how that’s so difficult to comprehend and
accomplish.

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