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Minnesota Legislature

Extra sales tax spending plans

Published (1/16/2009)
By Sonja Hegman
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Preserving the state’s cultural and outdoor heritage meant enough to a majority of state voters that they voted for a change in the state’s constitution.

“We have to determine the legislation that will make that work,” said Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown), chairwoman of the House Cultural and Outdoor Resources Finance Division. “This is a big, big responsibility and none of it is just automatic. We are in charge of listening and finding out what the people were saying when they voted ‘yes’ and what their expectations are.”

The constitutional amendment, which garnered 56 percent of the vote in November, will go into effect July 1, 2009, and increase the state’s sales tax from 6.5 percent to 6.875 percent. The extra money collected will be divided with 33 percent allocated to the Outdoor Heritage Fund, and to the three newly created funds the allocations are as follows:

• 33 percent to the Clean Water Fund, with at least 5 percent for clean drinking water;

• 19.75 percent to the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund; and

• 14.25 percent to the Parks and Trails Fund.

Representatives from several arts, outdoors and cultural groups pleaded their cases for funding consideration during the division’s first meeting Jan. 12. These included the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Minnesota Children’s Museum and the Minnesota Farmers Union.

Murphy said the division will get a lot of background on issues and as much scientific data as possible to make informed decisions on how to make the amendment work over the next 25 years. The extra sales tax is in effect until 2034.

“This is our kids’ money. This is our grandkids’ money,” Murphy said. “That is our legacy.”

Murphy also said she chose to have the division’s meeting as the last one on Mondays so no one would be in a rush to leave for other meetings.

“That means we can be here from 4:30 to 8:30 or 4:30 to 10:30,” she said.

One committee member asked if she would pay for pizza for any late meetings.

In response she said, “You might want to pack a sandwich.”

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