The environment is a hot topic these days, and a measure from this past legislative session will give Minnesotans a chance later in the year to put their tax money where their opinions are.
In November, state residents will vote on a measure to dedicate three-eighths of 1 percent of state sales tax to environmental conservation, which includes protection of fish and wildlife habitats. The state Department of Natural Resources has been seeking a stable, dedicated source of funding for years to pursue a variety of conservation and natural resource initiatives that span beyond the cyclical nature of state budgeting.
This issue has been lobbied in the Legislature for the better part of a decade. As dedicated funding, money set aside will mean less money for other areas, as the referendum does not seek an increase in the sales tax.
In the process of legislative negotiations, the referendum also came to include dedicated funding for public broadcasting and the arts as well, which critics derided as watering down the original conservation proposal and proponents argued was necessary to broaden the base of supporters. Other sources of dedicated funding were also considered, including bonding and the use of either lottery or Indian gaming proceeds, but ultimately dropped.
—Ronald A. Wirtz