St. Paul – The culmination of more than a decade of work by
legislators and conservation groups to make “dedicated funding”
part of the state constitution comes Tuesday, when voters decide
the fate of a proposed constitutional amendment.
The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment would increase the
state sales three-eighths of 1 percent, or about $270 million, for
the next 25 years. About one-third each would be for clean water
projects, and fish and wildlife habitat enhancement. The other
third would be split between parks and trails (14.25 percent) and
arts and culture (19.75 percent).
Supporters of the measure planned an array of awareness-raising
events this week during the final push prior to the Nov. 4
election, even as some groups and editorial boards suggested the
amendment is a poor idea.
Ken Martin, campaign manager for Vote Yes Minnesota
(www.yesformn.org), said the effort will include “a lot of door
knocking,” university campus appearances, postcards and other
literature, and continuation of radio and TV ad campaigns.
Awareness of the amendment is especially important, Martin said,
because not voting on the issues constitutes a “no” vote.
“My experience has been, once people are aware of it, they’re
supportive of it. Awareness is the key,” Martin said.
The concept of dedicated funding for the outdoors first was
raised in the state Legislature in the late 1990s, and was modeled
after a similar amendment adopted in Missouri in the 1980s (and
approved for extension twice since then). Several times it was
close to being approved as a ballot measure, but only this past
session did it receive the needed votes in both the House and
The amendment is being pitched as a vote for the environment at
a time when only about 1.2 percent of the state’s General Fund
dollars are aimed at natural resources, according to Martin.
Still, the amendment has its detractors, whose arguments range
from the timing of a tax increase, to a dedicated funding amendment
setting a poor policy precedent.
The Taxpayers League of Minnesota opposes the proposal, and
newspapers have editorialized against it. The Minnesota Farm Bureau
and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce also oppose the
A television advertisement from the No Constitutional Tax
Increase Campaign “is in response to the proponents of the
constitutional tax increase claiming that Minnesotans won’t be able
to swim in our lakes or eat the fish we catch,” a press release
states. “In addition, they make an exaggerated claim that our state
drinking water is threatened.”
But supporters counter that of the lakes that have been tested
in Minnesota, 40 percent are considered polluted. Funding is needed
to test the remaining lakes, as well as restore those damaged by
Further, “Funding for water, parks, and wildlife habitat remains
at historic lows, and we are losing access for swimming, fishing,
and wildlife watching,” according to Vote Yes Minnesota. “We have
to act now, with this amendment, to protect our state’s many water
sources – for our own health, and for that of our habitat and
wildlife, before they are lost forever.”
Estimates are the amendment would cost Minnesota families about
$60 per year.
Martin said the most common questions he receives from those
questioning the wisdom of the amendment relate to lottery proceeds
and the DNR’s involvement in amendment dollars.
Due in part to legislative changes, he said, only 7 cents of
each lottery dollar is used for natural resources. All told, the
Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund accounts for about $25
million per year for natural resources, far short of the needed
$150 million, Martin said.
Regarding dedicated funding dollars, Martin said organizations,
including state agencies like the DNR, the Pollution Control
Agency, and the Board of Water and Soil Resources, will compete for
funds; a special legislative/citizens committee will award
The State Arts Board likely would distribute arts funding.
Martin estimates the pro-amendment campaign will cost about $3.7
million, covered by donations from groups and individuals.
Steve Morse, executive director for the Minnesota Environmental
Partnership, said the amendment is needed to ensure a healthy state
environment for future generations.
“Voting for this amendment is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,”
he wrote in a Star Tribune letter. “It has the support of
Republicans, Democrats, sportsmen and women, conservation
organizations, the League of Women Voters, and more than 200
organizations representing many hundreds of thousands of moms,
dads, and other residents….
“We cannot wait,” he wrote. “The timing is critical for the
lakes, rivers and streams, wildlife, and natural areas that make
Minnesota special. We need the sanctity of our state’s constitution
to protect them for my children and yours.”