When voters approved the Legacy funding amendment in 2008, it was intended to restore, enhance and protect our natural resources.
It’s safe to say that most people did not expect hundreds of millions of dollars to be used to buy gobs of land, adding to the eight million acres that have already been set aside in Minnesota.
Since the amendment passed, Minnesota has purchased an average of 10,000 acres a year with Legacy money. Apparently, government suffers from the notion that it should buy and take away from the private sector because only government can properly care for land.
But what residents may not have realized is that with their vote in favor of the Legacy amendment, they also might have been voting an additional tax increase on themselves.
For example, let’s say Legacy funds are used to buy more land in Beltrami County. That land which was on the Beltrami County property tax list has disappeared as it is now under state government control. Because Beltrami County has lost that land, it also lost a chunk of its property tax collection because it is no longer being taxed for local government obligations.
Now, it is true that the county could claim Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) for state natural resources lands, but many times that amount does not cover the entire amount lost when the land was being held within the private sector. So who will ultimately make up for the missing funds? The neighboring Beltrami County property taxpayers, of course.
Not to mention the obvious issue that an increase in PILT funds is an increase in demands on Minnesota’s General Fund revenue, and as we all know, money we throw at PILT is state taxpayer money that could have been used for schools or roads.
This is why I’ve offered common sense legislation that addresses this nonsense. It states that when it comes to future land purchases made with Legacy funding or the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), the property taxes for those acres will also be assumed by and paid for from those respective dedicated funds into perpetuity.
Very simply, if state government thinks it’s critical to purchase this land and hold it until the end of time, then it’s good enough to also maintain the full property tax obligations until the end of time so local taxpayers are held harmless.
If approved, I suppose this legislation might also make state government think twice about adding to the eight million acres that Minnesota already owns, and would actually use Legacy money as intended - to restore, enhance and protect our existing natural resources.
Sounds like a win-win to me.