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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Legislature puts outdoors/arts amendment on ballot
By MARK BRUNSWICK, Star Tribune

Last update: February 14, 2008 - 3:47 PM

A bill to let voters decide whether to increase the state's sales tax for the outdoors, the arts and the environment is headed for the November ballot after it sailed through the Minnesota House this morning and the Senate this afternoon.

It passed by 85-46 in the House and by 46-17 in the Senate.

The measure will ask voters whether the state Constitution should be amended to raise the sales tax by 3/8ths of 1 percent and dedicate the money, estimated at $276 million a year.

If approved, the increase would go into effect July 1, 2009, and end 25 years later.

Despite the overwhelming bipartisan votes, debate against the measure focused on the problematic nature of dedicating funding through the Constitution and concern that voters would be too burdened to raise the sales tax.

"It's making sure we have a long-term 25-year plan to make sure we have the resources in place, not just for our quality of life but for our kids and grandkids," said House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, the author of the bill.

Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, an early supporter of one of the first versions of the measure, said he opposed the amendment now because it had morphed into something that hunters, anglers and trappers would not support.

"This conglomeration of other groups that claim they have to be on this bill to get it passed. That's a bunch of baloney," Hackbarth said. He predicted the measure would fail, setting back efforts to protect the outdoors.

If voters approve the amendment, it would dedicate $54.5 million a year to the arts, $91.1 million a year to the outdoors, $39.3 million to parks and trails, $91.1 million to a clean water fund, and $4.5 million to sustainable drinking water programs.

Sen Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, raised objections about the regressive nature of adding to the sales tax, which he said unfairly targets low-income groups.

"It's not good tax policy, it's not good budgeting policy," he said.

Mark Brunswick • 651-222-1636

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Details of the bill
Last update: February 14, 2008 - 1:27 PM

• The bill approved by the Legislature today would put this question to voters in November:

"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?"

• The bill does not need the governor's signature, because it involves a proposed amendment to the state Constitution.

• For the amendment to be approved, it must get "yes" votes from a 2/3 majority of all people who vote in the November general election. Leaving the ballot question blank would count as a "no" vote.

• The money would be divided as follows: 33 percent dedicated for the outdoors; 33 percent for a clean water fund; 14.25 percent for parks and trails; and 19.25 percent for the arts.

• It's estimated that this would provide $91.1 million a year for the outdoors; $91.1 million for a clean water fund (including at least $4.5 million for drinking water programs); $39.3 million for parks and trails; and $54.5 million a year to the arts.

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Niskanen: Tired of seeing our outdoors die? I am
CHRIS NISKANEN, St Paul Pioneer Press

Article Last Updated: 02/15/2008 07:38:33 AM CST

Growing up in northern Minnesota, I had a skewed view that every boy in America had a few ruffed grouse, a large black bear and a weasel trap line in his back yard. Those wonders of nature were, indeed, just outside my screen door.

There was also a duck pond, a gin-clear swimming lake and a river with a well-worn rope swing.

Those mysterious and magnificent outdoors experiences are why I'm sitting here now imploring you to vote in November to raise our state sales tax and dedicate $300 million of your hard-earned money for clean water, parks, natural resources and arts programs.

I know, I know - tax increases suck. I've voted against them. I'm a tightwad - just ask my wife. Our economy is suffering; gas prices are soaring, and people are losing their jobs. But I can tell you that the $56 annually the average Minnesota family will pay by raising our sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent (adding just less than 4 cents to every $10 purchase) will pay dividends in your and your children's future.

Most of you weren't raised in Itasca County in a town of 804 people, but if you've been to places like that, you know what I'm talking about. Maybe you grew up swimming behind your family cabin up north, canoeing lazy rivers, hunting grouse in public forests or camping on the North Shore.

If so, those experiences shaped who you are.

They did me. When I was 11, my parents divorced and moved far apart. I landed in that small town and found an incredible world in the forest behind our house that helped me sort things out. I spent countless hours alone, hunting grouse with my little shotgun, examining bear tracks in the mud, climbing trees, fishing for sunfish and hanging around a marsh, watching ducks and shorebirds land and take off.
I sat for hours in the woods just thinking. I formed lifelong friendships with other kids who hunted and fished, who made up a sizable population of Deer River High School.

Sometime later, a school guidance counselor gave me one of those tests to determine your future occupation.

"It says here you'd be a good welder or a good writer,'' she said.

I loved our school welding program, but all the professional welders I knew had burn holes in their boots.

"I'm not sure about welding," I said.

So I've spent that last 20 years (14 of them at the Pioneer Press) writing about nature. Lately, writing about Minnesota's woods, lakes and rivers has grown harder.

I've written about how 40 percent of our waters are classified as polluted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. I've reported on vast tracts of northern forests that are being divided and sold for private development, including the same woods I grew up in. The lakes where I shot my first teal no longer get huge flocks of northern waterfowl descending upon them in the fall. The places along the Mississippi River where I caught fish now have homes and "no trespassing" signs. The spot where I shot my first deer is a housing development.

Here in St. Paul, I have stacks of "long-range" reports on my desk that spell out how to improve Minnesota's duck and pheasant populations. Those plans have no future unless we vote to pass the dedicated funding package.

Says the state's long-range pheasant plan, written three years ago: "Although the price tag for this vision seems daunting, it is achievable with an increased emphasis on conservation within future farms program, plus a significant source of conservation funding (e.g., a dedicated sales tax)."

Minnesota's outdoors and environmental community have worked for a decade to pass this legislation. Some very smart Minnesotans looked at our current natural-resources decline and realized there was only one way to fix it: Ask the voters to raise their taxes and fund better clean water and natural resources programs.

On Thursday, the Legislature agreed.

In November, you get to decide.

Chris Niskanen can be reached at [email protected] press.com or 651-228-5524.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I wanted no part of it for the Arts, and many sporsmen feel the same way. I could see the parks and trails getting a small portion, like 5% of the pie. But my thinking was to heck with the arts.

And none of us wanted a new tax. But that is not what pased the legislature. So the new tax would be $55 a year per person (275M divided by 5M people=$55+-)

So it is what it is.

So the question that each of us will have to come to grips to is this: If this does not pass, we know the habitat and waters will surely get worse. If we do pass this, all MN people help pay for it, so less of a burden on the sportsmen. And there is a very good chance we could at least stave off the waters and habitat getting worse over the next 25 years, and quite possibly there would be improvement in the water quality and habitat.

We know what will happen if we do nothing. But if we do something, at least there is a chance to change our degraded waters and habitat in MN. The DFA is a chance to do something something positive for our future. It works in MO for many years now, so why not give it a chance to work here too?

A $183M a year for 25 years ($4.6Billion) is better than zippo IMO.
 

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It definitely has it's pros and cons, and it is always a gamble putting more money in the hands of politicans...but If I lived in MN I'd vote for it.

I think it's worth rolling the dice and hoping that the funds are used for the right things and in the right way and people look back in ten years and see this as a boon for the outdoors in the state of MN.

But first it has to be passed....which might be very difficult....
 

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I guess I would have a question..
If this new amendment (tax increase) would help with the outdoors, what will happen to the money that was already supporting the outdoors, and the Art Culture?.
My guess is that now would get funneled into the general fund without anybody knowing about it, they will piss it away on non-wildlife/outdoors issues, and they would still be asking for more tax increases.
Just listen to the Democrat run Minn. Legislature now, all they are proposing is tax increases, hunting fee increases, license tab increases. Our only saving grace to help slow these increases down is the Governor with his Veto pen...
I have huge reservations about constantly creating new Amendments for tax increases that take over for the responsibilities that the Representatives that are voted in are supposed to be doing.
When is enough tax enough?
And when will the State Representatives actually do something good for the state of Minnesota that does not always include tax increases and tell us how us tax-payers don't do enough? :huh:
"The Land of 10,000 Taxes" could be the new state motto.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I beleive it stays funded as is. But you never know with the crooks at the legislature.

I surely did not, nor most sportsmen wanted a new tax. Originally it was to be 3/16 of 1 % out of the existing sales tax. I wanted to see 1/4% but again out of existing sales tax. But the democrats would not hear of it. The fiscally conservative Repeblicans wanted out of existing tax. Guess who is in conrol of both houses? the Dems, so no surpise I guess.

So it is what it is. It is a take it or leave proposition. Like I said, it is would the outdoors be better with it, or without it. Niskanen has a point (above).
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Messages From Sportsmen for Change this AM:

Mike Max & Ron Schrara - WCCO Am 830 will have Garry Leaf of Sportsmen for Change on the Radio Monday Februray 18th, at 8:30 PM to discuss - dedicated funding.

You can call into the show.

Sportsmen's grassroots action STILL is needed - this session- for dedicated funding language to also include: Sportsmens stakeholders council, Sportsmens Grants, and a Forest Account within the Game and Fish fund.

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Sportsmen wary of what 'yes' might mean

Who will decide how portion of amendment revenue would be spent?

By Mark Fischenich Mankato | Free Press Staff Writer

A constitutional amendment, which would increase the state sales tax and dedicate the revenue to the outdoors and the arts, will be on the general election ballot Nov. 4.

But the fight isn't over.

Sportsmen groups will be attempting to pass legislation in coming weeks and months to nail down who will decide how the outdoors portion of the revenue - estimated at $92 million a year - will be spent.

And all of the organizations who would benefit from the total dedicated funding of $ 276 million annually will need to persuade a majority of voters on Nov. 4 to vote " yes" on the proposed amendment.

Fred Froehlich of Nicollet said the two issues are entwined. " I think it's huge," said Froehlich of getting specifics on the allocation of the new revenue enacted into law before the vote. "I don't think you pick up any support in northern Minnesota (without certain guarantees). The wariness is there. They'll say, 'Oh, we've been down this road before.'"

The skepticism comes from seeing revenue from the Minnesota Lottery that was to be dedicated primarily to natural resources being diverted to state general fund spending after the lottery was approved through a constitutional amendment.

This time around, sportsmen are looking for three guarantees to be passed into law by legislators.

The creation of a "stakeholders council," likely a mix of elected officials and representatives of various hunting and fishing groups, that would make decisions on how to spend the 33 percent of the new revenue dedicated to wetlands, prairies, forests and other wildlife and fish habitat.
The establishment of a fund to provide matching dollars for money raised by local and regional outdoors groups, such as Pheasants Forever or Ducks Unlimited, for specific outdoors projects.
A commitment to use some of the money for preservation of forest land for hunters in northern Minnesota.
"Everybody feels they've been burnt once and don't want it to happen again," said Froehlich, a member of the Nicollet Conservation Club.

Without the enactment into law of those assurances, he thinks anglers and hunters will be less likely to support the amendment - or at least less likely to put in the hard work necessary to persuade others to support it.

Area lawmakers say they, too, would like to see legislation passed before the session ends in the spring, spelling out how the estimated $276 million in revenue from a 3⁄8ths of 1 percent increase in the sales tax will be allocated.

Rep. Tony Cornish, RVernon Center, said he tried to get a commitment from Rep. Tony Sertich, the chief sponsor of the bill in the House, that the legislation would get done - [before people vote on the amendment.]

Sertich, DFL- Chisholm, said the specific statutory language on how the revenue will be allocated needs to be discussed by all of the legislative committees involved in approving funding for the outdoors.

Many lawmakers are reluctant to assign budget authority to outside groups, viewing that as a fundamental duty assigned by the state constitution to the Legislature, and Sertich isn't sure an agreement will be reached this year.

A final decision will involve a lot of negotiation and a delicate balancing act, sort of like the work done to get the amendment approved by the Legislature - something that only happened Thursday after nearly a decade of trying.

New Ulm Sen. Dennis Frederickson, a co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said he supports getting the details of how the money would be allocated nailed down soon. " I hope it happens," Frederickson said. " We had it in the Senate bill last year."

But Frederickson believes sportsmen groups will rally around the constitutional amendment even if they have to wait until next year to get some of the provisions they're looking for.

"I think they'll be inclined to vote 'Yes' anyway," he said. And the amendment will get support from arts groups, supporters of clean-water programs and backers of parks and trails - all of which would receive dedicated funding from the sales tax hike.
 

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h2ofwlr said:
I beleive it stays funded as is. But you never know with the crooks at the legislature.
Believe me, I'm for money going to the "Outdoors", with HUGE reservations to what "Arts and Culture" means in the Representatives eyes
and
I also would like someone to put the question to the Representatives as to what will happen to the current funds already going to these areas areas now..?..
All I hear over and over is "Tax Increase" coming from our current Reps.. And then they tell us we aren't paying enough, how departments will suffer, what will need to be cut, how kids will be affected, but THEY are the ones who are wasting the money already given to them. Why can't they ever turn the finger around and point at themselves as to why they don't have enough money left over.
I NEVER hear tax cut. Surely there is 1 tax out there that should go away...
 

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I just wanted to stress one more time, that I think that having new taxes dictated by constitutional amendments is a very un-professional and un-ethical way for our Representatives to get more tax money for something they should already be doing in their normal budget discussions.
If you ask any of the Rep's what exactly is the "Arts" and what exactly is the "Outdoors" and where exactly will this money be going, they cannot give you an answer.

I think we all need to put the people we vote in on the line with what happened to all of our money they currently have and are giving out to schools and entitlements.
I believe there is enough money in their hands already.
What happened to the money set aside from the lottery for wildlife? It went to the general funds.
What happened to the tax-money set aside and collect for a program they called RIM. (Re-Invest in Minnesota)? It went into the general fund.
What makes anyone believe that this "New Tax" will not just go into the general fund so they can waste more money.
They are constantly asking for more money.
When the bridge went down, the first thing the Democrats did was hold their hand out and say we need more money. What happened to the transportation money they already had in the system that was supposed to go for this? All they do is point the finger at Carol Molnau and blame it on her, when they should point the finger at themselves by wasting the highway transportation money on non-highway transportation items, like walking paths in the Northeast corner of the state.
 

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I see your point, but to me...the extra cost is a sacrifice I would be willing to make for the outdoors.

I would like to see more of what you say, what is "arts", "what is the outdoors", and I would like to be certain that the money is going in the right places.
At this current point in time, I will vote for this. This is not me laying down and taking it as they want to give it to me, but taking the best opportunity we currently have offered to us, and continuing to express my desire for a more ideal plan.
 

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Once this passes, what's next?
An Amendment with a tax increase for curbs and gutters?
An Amendment with a tax increase for public pools?
An Amendment with a tax increase for snow removal?
Etc. Etc. Etc.

I still think this is a bad precedence to get started. The elected officials are voted in to negotiate, debate, and discuss laws, bills, issue's. Not just create amendments instead.
Not just create an amendment that creates tax increases that nobody knows "Exactly" where the money is going to go.
When we all know, just like before, that it will end up in the general fund to go for Light-rail, a walking path in the chippawa forest, or just more free "give-aways" for people who live off the government.

I just think we all need to question the elected-ones more, instead of having our purely democrat or republican blinders on.
 

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Quite true. But how long do we hold out on needed funding? What if we don't get Dedicated Funding this time around?

Are we going to get a funding bill that is markedly similar, new taxes, no provisions for current funding efforts (state lottery) with the the stipulation that a portion of the money will go to X? maybe something worse than the arts?

How long will it be until we get something even remotely better than this? When was the last time we did.

All I am saying is with what I already know, I plan to vote for it. I'm not optimistic about something better coming around so soon. I wouldn't mind having this until we can get something better.
 

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I see your point about funding, and I entirely agree with it.
I don't agree with the way they want to do it.

The problem is... the way they are currently spending and the way they appropriate the current budget.
The elected officials need to be held liable for that with creating a good sound, fiscally responsible budget.... Period.... Not always asking for more cash and look at the programs were it is being spent right now and maybe cut or phase out cuts.
Instead of handing out cash to every bleeding heart program, look at all of the programs and spend it the way it should be spent.

I'm not saying I won't vote for it, but the elected representatives need to know how 100% of the public think and not just the extreme left and right wings...
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Well it sure would be good to know the difference between a federal Congressman and state Rep for starters... :yes:
 

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h2ofwlr said:
Well it sure would be good to know the difference between a federal Congressman and state Rep for starters... :yes:
Sorry... I should have known the "congressman" term was always used for the US House of Reps and never used when talking about Minnesota State Legislature.
I guess I should have said "You should ask your district member of the State of Minnesota Senate and the State of Minnesota House of Representatives."

Whew that was close. Good thing you caught that. :thumbsup:
:rofl:
 

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Dolsmi said:
h2ofwlr said:
Well it sure would be good to know the difference between a federal Congressman and state Rep for starters... :yes:
Sorry... I should have known the "congressman" term was always used for the US House of Reps and never used when talking about Minnesota State Legislature.
I guess I should have said "You should ask your district member of the State of Minnesota Senate and the State of Minnesota House of Representatives."

Whew that was close. Good thing you caught that. :thumbsup:
:rofl:
Yet another one we can't balme on fat fingers! :biggrin:
 

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The first of this years Democratic Legislatures agenda of many new tax increases was just veto-over-ridden and passed by the Minn. Legislature even though it a vast majority of the people were against it
At least this Outdoors and Arts Amendment will have to actually have actual voters approve it instead of special interest lobbiest's and thieves.
(whoops, I fat fingered that one as well and meant to say MN Senators and Representatives instead of thieves)
 
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