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Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: A vote to clean up our impaired waters

Good government is about fixing problems. And for the past three decades, the Legislature has not addressed a growing problem in Minnesota: the condition of our lakes, rivers and natural resources — the essence of what makes this state a great place to live.

Our natural resources are facing serious problems. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 40 percent of the waters we have tested don’t meet basic health standards. And the Department of Natural Resources tells us we stand to lose a million acres of wildlife habitat over the next 25 years. In a state whose motto is The Land of 10,000 Lakes, this is simply unacceptable. We can and must do better. 

Our strong outdoor traditions are also in peril. Every year we lose more access to our outdoors. Some people enjoy fishing Lake Mille Lacs or hunting pheasants on our prairies. Others simply enjoy nature’s many splendors, from wildlife watching to hiking to canoeing. However, these opportunities are getting harder to enjoy.

And although our arts community is regularly recognized for excellence nationally and generates more than a billion of dollars annually for Minnesota’s economy, devastating cuts have reduced access to the arts in every county, while demand has been increasing rapidly.

Too little investment has led to problems that threaten these resources, and it is our obligation to provide the same opportunities for our children and grandchildren that we enjoyed. Inaction in the face of these challenges should not be our response. Will we wait until 60 percent of our waters are polluted before we decide to act? There will come a time when it is too late or too expensive to fix these problems.

Good government
On Nov. 4 we can stem this tide and ensure our natural and cultural resources by voting yes for the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in the qualities that make this such a great place to live — clean water, outdoor traditions, arts education and our parks and trails.

This constitutional amendment is good government. By establishing a dedicated fund and strategically targeting it toward the critical needs of our natural and cultural resources, we can fix these problems by protecting the lakes, land and way of life for future generations of Minnesotans. 

One of Minnesota’s most respected civic organizations, the League of Women Voters, recently endorsed the campaign. It cited the need for long-term vision and immediate need to guide state spending decisions. 

If passed, the amendment would give the Legislature more flexibility with general fund dollars by reducing competition for limited resources. Because this proposal is entirely funded with new money, no additional strain will be placed on the state’s budget now or in the future, while ensuring that our state’s long-term priorities no longer fall victim to short-term budget needs.

This makes good economic sense as well. One of the number one arguments recruiters from the major Minnesota Fortune 500 and 100 companies give potential recruits is the high quality of life we enjoy in this state, including the vibrant arts community and access to wonderful natural amenities. Businesses locate to the state for its high quality of life: good education system, healthy populous, clean environment and access to a vibrant arts community.

The solution is clear. The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment provides us with the tools to fix our natural resource problems. For less than $5 a month for the average Minnesota family of four, we can invest in the things that we value: our water, land and way of life.

Ken Martin is campaign manager for Vote Yes Minnesota.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by John Olson on 10/06/2008 - 12:49 pm.

    Twenty years ago, Minnesota voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing a state lottery with the proceeds going to the Environmental Trust Fund. Scratch-off ticket sales began in 1990. The breakdown of lottery proceeds is here:

    It’s worth noting that nearly 15 percent of the lottery proceeds now go to the General Fund…something that was not advertised at the time. Nevertheless, “the environment” has been getting funds for nearly 20 years now from lottery proceeds.

    I have no objections to the environmental issues or the arts. They are important and I understand that it takes money to fund both. But I will not support a tag-team of two special interests having a direct pipeline to my wallet permanently. That’s why we have elected officials and legislative sessions. For better or worse, they have to gauge needs and weigh those against economic conditions. In the end, they are accountable to us as voters.

    If this passes, I expect the next group (or groups) will line up and try to get their special interest funded via the Minnesota Constitution next time around.

  2. Submitted by Reggie McGurt on 10/07/2008 - 04:40 pm.

    Well said John. I couldn’t agree more. This is bad public policy plain and simple. Have we really decided that the arts and natural resources are so much more important than all of other statewide budget needs that they require a constitutionally mandated funding source in perpetuity? Why not K12 education? Why not higher education? Why not health and human services?

    The problem with budgeting by constitutional amendment is that you have no flexibility to adapt the changing budget realities.

  3. Submitted by John Olson on 10/07/2008 - 07:17 pm.

    You forgot roads and bridges, Reggie. 😉 Oh wait! We did that already! We had the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax fund that got emptied out two or three budget crises ago.

  4. Submitted by Vonya Ereye on 10/13/2008 - 10:35 pm.

    Our tax raising liberal lovers are at it again. Never met a tax increase they didn’t like. Don’t forget about the special tax for us MPLS folks, who agreed to pay the 1/2% to pay for the metrodome with the promise that once paid off, the tax would go away. Low and behold, the metrodome was paid off several years ago and not one mention of repealing the tax. We did manage to get stuck in the butt again with another tax to build another stadium.

    I guess if the formula works, keep using it. Eventually, the people that actually have to pay for it will revolt. Hopefully, that is right about NOW.

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