A Minnesota group, "Sportsmen for Change," backs a constitutional amendment that would dedicate a portion of the state sales tax for the outdoors and the arts. If passed, this amendment would generate $300 million a year for 25 years -- a tax increase of $11 billion.
I am an avid outdoorsman. However, I strongly believe that this amendment would be a big mistake for Minnesota. It's bad public policy as it would set a guaranteed state funding precedent.
If passed, a council would recommend allocation on $100 million per year for fish and wildlife habitat. This council will be made up of four elected legislators and eight unelected and unaccountable citizens. The Legislature will control the actual appropriations and could make different funding decisions.
The state gives enough money to the Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies that help govern the outdoors. Last year, the DNR received $103 million in the state bonding bill for acquisition of wildlife management areas, parks and trails, and the like. This money was above and beyond what is in the regular DNR budget.
In addition, the outdoors and the environment already have a dedicated account: the proceeds from the state lottery. This money is distributed through the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources, which last year totaled over $22 million spent on environment and outdoors projects.
Funding to protect the outdoors is currently available as evidenced by the fact that our country and our state spend billions and billions of dollars every year on habitat, restoration, and clean water projects. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture reported since 1986, a total of 512,257 acres of wetlands have been voluntarily restored in Minnesota. All of this has been accomplished in two decades, without a dedicated funding amendment. The claims by amendment supporters that nothing is being done and that our future is at risk if the amendment doesn't pass are completely false and misleading. Please join me and vote no on Nov. 4.