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Legislative Update (2-17-17)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

In 2008, a constitutional amendment was placed on the ballot to be vote on by Minnesotans.

The text of the measure as it appeared on the ballot read as follows:

 

"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?"

[3]

 

This was known as the Legacy Amendment, and it was passed by Minnesotans in 2008. The current total funding for Legacy projects for a 2 year period will be roughly $670 Million, and two thirds of the funds are allocated biannually. One third of this funding goes through the Outdoor Heritage Fund and is split in half to be allocated annually.

A 12 member Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) is appointed to study how Outdoor Heritage funds should be used and bring project recommendations to the Legislature each year.

  • 2 public members appointed by the Senate Rules and Administration Subcommittee on Committees;
  • 2 public members appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives;
  • 4 public members appointed by the governor;
  • 2 members of the Senate appointed by the Senate Rules and Administration Subcommittee on Committees;
  • 2 members of the House of Representatives appointed by the speaker of the House.

This year, Outdoor Heritage funds are roughly $110 million, and the Lessard Sams Council used this budget in making their project recommendations.

Some of the recommendations brought forward this year include acquiring nearly 11,000 additional acres of land for the state. This would increase our state's existing land holdings, putting even more pressure on an already stressed property tax system.

One of the original asks was $4 million for the purchase and enhancement of state lands. $2 million of this would have purchased 300 acres, and $2 million to enhance 15,500 acres. In the end, the Council recommended funding for just the 300-acre purchase, and removed the 15,500 acre enhancement.

The problem here is that we are spending money to buy new state lands that we won’t be able to manage, instead of using money to enhance existing state land holdings. We need to concentrate on maintaining what we already have.

As you can see, significant amounts of existing Legacy funds are used to purchase and expand state lands. This negatively affects our property tax base, and raises maintenance costs for taxpayers.

I have proposed an alternative bill that would transfer funding meant for Legacy Amendment projects, and redirect them into road and bridge enhancement projects, and clean water maintenance. This bill would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to reallocate these funds.

I will keep you updated on this issue as we move forward. Please contact me with any thoughts or questions you may have.

Sincerely,

 

Steve

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