Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Friday, March 26, 2010

NO ONE SAID VOTERS ARE SMART

Passing the sales tax amendment in November 2008 was one of the stupidest things ever done by the Minnesota voters. We, the voters are responsible for this mistake, only because the legislators, after years of wrangling about the issue, said, "let the people decide". Then they put the amendment to the constitution process in place.

If clean water, parkland, trails, and culture are important to Minnesota citizens (which the positive vote in Nov. 2008 showed to be the case), then you senators and representatives should have provided funding EVEN IF it meant raising taxes. But no----you folks would not do it because it might look bad on your voting record and voters may turn to someone else the next time you were on the ticket.

So you crafted a constitutional amendment that would raise the rate of our state sales tax by 3/8ths of one percent and dedicate the money to wildlife, water, parks, and the arts. 56% of the voters said, "yes" and because they did, today there is a big fight for the money. You legislators should have known better. The amendment did not set up a specific structure to distribute the money and now we have organizations coming out of the woodwork in a royal battle over "getting our share of the money".

There is argument about the meaning of the language in the amendment. What part of "protect, enhance, and restore" is so difficult to understand? Wildlife groups want the money to be spent for ONLY "on the ground" projects and when some folks suggest spending on management --like of land the DNR already owns, they get all huffy. If the conservation groups demand on the ground projects they should be really upset about the $750,000 that went to the U of M Water Resource Center to create a comprehensive 25 year "Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework" plan. That seems like a lot of tax money needlessly spent when every county is required to do a water plan and update it every five years. How much work could it be to access 87 plans and consolidate them?

Most of the time, Minnesota excels in the way we do public policy. This was not one of those times. This amendment will cost us much more than any tax increase and the worst result is further polarization among groups who are working for the same results ---a good quality of life in our state. Taxpayers have a right to be very disappointed. end

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