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Rep. Wills (57B) needs to re-read Legacy Amendment objectives

As a member of the Legacy Committee, Wills can’t simply advocate for her district alone.

Rep. Anna Wills
Rep. Anna Wills

I noticed this letter to the editor from District 57B Representative Anna Wills of Apple Valley-Rosemount.

Let’s see if you notice a problem here:

To the editor:

I am honored to have been elected to represent District 57B, which includes Rosemount, northern Apple Valley, and Coates. I want my constituents to know my strong desire to be their voice and advocate, and that includes advocating for the Minnesota Zoo-one of the most important assets here in District 57B. The zoo is a destination for families to take their children, provides 220-300 jobs depending on the season, and has an annual statewide economic impact of over $114 million.

After I was elected, Minority Leader Kurt Daudt formally recommended I be placed on the Legacy Committee, which allocates money from the Legacy Amendment that was passed by voters in 2008. The zoo receives about 29 percent of its annual budget funding from the state, some of which comes from the Legacy Amendment funds. The remaining 71 percent of the zoo’s budget comes from private donors and patrons. I have met with the zoo’s CEO and Director, Lee Ehmke, and believe the Minnesota Zoo has a visionary plan to maintain and grow exhibits so it can continue to thrive in our community. The zoo is a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars and is very deserving of the Legacy Amendment funding it receives.

Although House Rules are very clear that recommendations from the Minority Leader are to be followed, Speaker Paul Thissen chose to replace me with a different representative on the Legacy Committee. Given my desire to be an advocate for the Minnesota Zoo, I have had discussions with Daudt and Thissen to convey how important this committee assignment is to me. I am pleased to have been put back on the committee and I look forward to being a strong advocate for the Minnesota Zoo and the rest of District 57B this legislative session.

Anna Wills
Apple Valley
District 57B state representative

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The way Rep. Wills seems to be approaching this, indicates a lack of understanding of how the Legacy Committee is supposed to work. Rep. Wills seems to believe that her position on the committee gives her an additional avenue to specifically advocate for the Minnesota Zoo.

This is not entirely true.

One of the more controversial provisions for the Legacy implementation is that it MUST be a supplemental funding – not a replacement source of funds. To quote the MN auditor’s office:

Another area that concerned auditors is a provision that forbids legacy money from replacing traditional funding.

“It’s not clear what constitutes a traditional source of funding,” auditor Judy Randall said, adding that the constitutional amendment voters approved does not require lawmakers to maintain current funding to any program.

Rep. Wills needs to be careful in regards to traditional funding of the Minnesota Zoo. Yes, it is funding in large part by state funds and bonding projects…..however, if there are cuts to “traditional” funding, Legacy funds cannot replace that money. Any Legacy money has to meet criteria that indicate any money given to the Zoo would be over and above “traditional” funding. 

As a member of the Legacy Committee, Ms. Wills must consider the merits of all requests given to the committee. She can’t simply advocate for her district alone.

Judging by the tone of this letter, maybe Speaker Thissen was justified in taking Rep. Wills off of the committee and giving it to a more experienced representative.

Now that she has been reinstated, her actions will have to watched.

She needs to remember that her first priority is to advocate for the Zoo in the normal legislative process. If the Zoo funding is reduced or fails to get a bonding request, she cannot just move to the Legacy Funding for replacement of funds lost.

Her letter seems to imply the use of that very process.

This post was written David Mindeman and originally published on mnpACT! Progressive Political Blog. Follow Dave on Twitter: @newtbuster.

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