Local groups see good, bad in proposed amendmentOn the ballot is the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which, if approved, would secure dedicated money for the arts, clean water and other outdoor programs by raising the state sales tax 0.38 percent for the next 25 years.
By: Mike Enright, Alexandria Echo Press
In less than a month, voters around the state will have to choose if they want to add their own mark to Minnesota’s Constitution.
On the ballot is the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which, if approved, would secure dedicated money for the arts, clean water and other outdoor programs by raising the state sales tax 0.38 percent for the next 25 years.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue estimates the measure would generate $11 billion in funding.
Locally, reactions to the proposed amendment are mixed.
Mark Anderson of Viking Sportsmen said his group supports the measure.
“It’s been an uphill battle to save habitat for wildlife [in Minnesota],” he said. “To restore wetlands and native prairies, there is no way as hunters’ clubs that we can come up with the amount of money needed to fund that.”
Anderson said while groups like Viking Sportsmen will gain from the amendment, they’re not the only ones.
“This is not really a hunter amendment,” he said. “This is an environmental amendment because all parts of the environment will benefit from this.”
Anderson said he believes many other Alexandria residents also want to see dedicated funding for preserving Minnesota waters and other natural resources.
While canvassing at the Douglas County Fair in August, Anderson said he spoke with dozens of people about the amendment and found only a handful against it.
The Douglas County Farm Bureau (DCFB) is one organization that does oppose the measure.
Ron Branch, DCFB president, said the 230-member association is following their state organization in standing against the amendment because it sets a bad precedent.
“The Constitution is not the place for a sales tax increase,” he said. “That’s what we have legislators for, to do budgeting.
“This is getting passed on to voters in some roundabout way.”
Branch said even though the causes the amendment would support are good ones, the policy to pay for it is bad.
“We’re not saying it’s a bad cause,” he said. “It’s more the principle of the thing.”
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce also disagrees with the amendment on principle, calling it “poor budget policy” and “not necessary” to adequately fund the Clean Water Legacy Act.
While the state Chamber opposes the amendment, the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce is staying neutral, said Executive Director Coni McKay.
Most local Chambers aren’t deciding to go one way or the other, she said, and Alexandria is particularly conflicted.
“Since a lot of our prosperity comes from tourism, it seems very logical we would want to protect the very resources that represent that tourist trade,” she said, “but we also represent business, and [the amendment] is a very significant tax on business.
“So that’s why we’re very careful not to take any position.”