Tricounty News

Constitutionally dedicated funding takes shape



In the November general election of 2008 Minnesotans voted "Yes" over 1.5 million times for passage of the "Clean Water, Land, and Legacy" constitutional amendment to raise state sales tax three-eighths of one percent for the environment and arts funding. With 56 percent of the voters approving the amendment, the work began this spring on assembling the infrastructure for allocating this additional money and gathering in-put from citizens and groups eligible for implementing specific projects.

This is the second time in recent years that voters have approved a ballot question dealing with sales tax revenues dedicated for public projects. Minnesota voters passed a constitutional amendment on transportation funding in November 2006 that called for dedication of existing sales tax revenues on motor vehicles for state highways, local roads and public transit, phased in over five years.

A state sales tax increase of three-eighths of one percent represents an additional tax of 37.5 cents on a $100 purchase. The statewide sales tax, now at 6.5 percent, will increase to 6.875 percent. The sales tax in five metropolitan area counties (Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington), will increase from 6.75 percent to 7.125 percent.

Increasing the state sales tax by three-eighths of one percent is projected to bring in an additional $250 million a year which will be divided up among the following four categories.

• Outdoor Heritage Fund (33 percent of revenues)

• Clean Water Fund (33 percent of revenues)

• Parks and Trails Fund (14.25 per-cent of revenues)

• Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund (19.75 percent of revenues)

The increase in the sales tax across the state will begin July 1, 2009, and proceeds from that were the subject of much debate during this session of the Legislature as plans for its spending were hammered out.

Outdoor Heritage Fund

The Outdoor Heritage Fund's governing body determining what projects will receive funding from its portion of revenues is the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council, which was established by the Legislature in 2008. This body hears project proposals from government agencies, citizens, and outdoors groups concerned with fish, wildlife, and habitat, then makes their recommendations to the Legislature for approval.

The Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council is going to distribute about $87.5 million dollars over the following biennium and carry forward a $71 million reserve fund from the current biennium revenues. The governmental agencies tasked with implementing the programs with this money will be the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources $75 million, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources $9 million, the Legislature $705 thousand, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture at $2 million.

Conservation groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and Trout Unlimited are instrumental in placing proposals before the Lessard Council for habitat preservation.

Clean Water Fund

The Legislature is in charge of determining the division of funds within the Clean Water Fund. The Clean Water Fund will distribute $151 million of the $158.7 in revenues during this biennium leaving it a balance of $7.7 million to carry forward.

Among agencies charged with implementing clean water projects with this money are the Minnesota Department of Agriculture $7 million, the Public Facilities Authority $33 million, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency $51 million, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources $14.5 million, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources $38 million, the Metropolitan Council $400 thousand, the Minnesota Department of Health $3.7 million, the University of Minnesota $1 million, and the Legislature $25 thousand.

Parks and Trails Fund

The Parks and Trails Fund receives the least of the four categories of the new revenue stream generated by the sales tax and its expenditures are determined by the Legislature. Here too the Minnesota DNR is the largest player in distribution and implementation of projects across the state being allotted $37 million for 2010/11 parks and trails spending The Metropolitan Council will receive $27.7 million for parks and trails projects in the twin cities metro area and the University of Minnesota is the recipient of $400 thousand. The Legislature is slated for $15 thousand of the park and trail money leaving $3.4 million in the Parks and Trails Fund to carry forward.

Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund

The Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund is on schedule to get $95 million of the new sales tax and it is the Legislature which determines its allocation. The Minnesota State Arts Board receives the lions share at $43.3 million. The Minnesota Historical Society is looking forward to a $22 million piece of the pie and the Minnesota Department of Administration including Public Radio and Television, Childrens Museums, Science Museum, Minnesota Zoos, and the Association of Minnesota Public Educational Radio Stations (AMPERS) collect $14 million.

Other groups receiving money from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund include: The Department of Education $8.5 million, the Indian Affairs council $2 million, the Perpich Center for the Arts $1 million, the Humanities Center $2.1 million, and the Minnesota Legislature $20 thousand.

The Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund will spend $93.2 of the $95 million leaving it a balance forward of $1.8 million going into the 2012-13 biennium.

A full budget spreadsheet is available on the Minnesota Senate Web site at: www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/departments/fiscalpol/tracking. Scroll down and click on the heading: Dedicate Funding - HF1231 Conference Committee Report.

Citizen Participation

If you have an idea for or questions about a wildlife or habitat project you can find out more information on the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council at www.lohc.state.mn.us/. Or contact Acting Executive Director Bill Becker at (651) 259-5527, e-mail, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The Council's criteria, guidelines and procedures for funding projects are outlined on their Web site as well as a schedule of upcoming meetings and much archived information from past meeting which took place this spring. This information may be helpful in your formation of a project plan or getting you in touch with another person or group which may be able to help fold your idea into a plan already in progress for future presentation to the Council. The projects occurring within the categories of clean water and parks and trails are largely determined by state agencies.

If you have an idea for an arts project you may want to contact the Minnesota State Arts board. They are located at Park Square Court, Suite 200, 400 Sibley Street, Saint Paul, MN 55101-1928. Their phone numbers are (651) 215-1600, Toll-free: (800) 8MN-ARTS (800-866-2787), e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and their Web address is www.arts.state.mn.us.

If you would like to contact me you can do so by calling (651)-296-4131, by sending an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or by sending mail to my Senate Office at 103 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.