You can have a say in how Legacy Act money is spentIt’s so small you may not have noticed you’ve been paying it – but it’s supposed to make a big impact. Since July 1 of 2009, the state sales tax bumped up three-eighths of a percent as part of a voter-approved Legacy Act.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
It’s so small you may not have noticed you’ve been paying it – but it’s supposed to make a big impact.
Since July 1 of 2009, the state sales tax bumped up three-eighths of a percent as part of a voter-approved Legacy Act.
The money is dedicated for outdoor uses and the arts.
A local resident is encouraging people to voice their opinions on how the money should be spent.
Bonnie Huettl of Alexandria recently attended a listening session in Baxter hosted by the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center (WRC) and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).
Huettl, vice president of the Douglas County Lakes Association (DCLA), attended the session to learn about the Legacy Amendment money and how it is distributed.
The meeting was led by Steve Morse from BWSR and Barb Liukkonen from WRC.
Huettl learned that WRC designed the Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework to help figure out how and when to make investments that will ensure the purity and abundance of the state’s water for generations to come.
And because the state’s water resources belong to the people, WRC will be gathering public opinion via surveys and listening sessions – like the one attended by Huettl – on a range of water issues, from boating to agricultural practices.
Huettl said the public can take the survey, which is available on the WRC website at http://wrc.umn.edu.
“It is the public’s opportunity to have input on how the money is spent,” she said.
She took the survey and gave a couple of examples of questions, including, “In your opinion, what are the most important uses of water in Minnesota?” Uses included agriculture and irrigation, drinking water, ecological uses, power generation, recreation, transportation and wastewater disposal.
Another question was, “In your opinion, what are the most serious problems facing Minnesota’s waters?” Choices included chemical pollution, climate change, overuse, non-native plants, animals and diseases, unsafe drinking water, nutrients, stormwater runoff and loss of wetlands.
Huettl said that by taking the survey, the public can let the groups involved with the Legacy Amendment know what is important to them.
“Without this, you don’t have a voice,” said Huettl.
The funds from the Legacy Amendment Funding Bill, according to Huettl, will be divided among four different categories – habitat (33 percent), parks and trails (15 percent), the arts (19 percent) and water (33 percent).
After attending the listening session, Huettl said some of the concerns with the Legacy Amendment money are that there should be dedicated funds for aquatic invasive species, which is currently lumped into the water category. Huettl feels this is such an important and large issue that it should have its own funding.
Those attending the listening session, including Huettl, shared their thoughts with the representatives from BWSR and WRC.
Huettl, along with other concerned citizens who attended the meeting, feels there should be an increase in money dedicated to protect waters ahead of time instead of spending money on cleanup and mitigation.
She also feels that governmental agencies, like those involved with how the Legacy Amendment money should be spent, should tap into local lake associations, like DCLA.
“They need to be attuned to what’s going on on a local level,” said Huettl.
Right now, she said, in order to receive money from the Legacy Amendment, a group has to be a governmental agency. She feels this needs to be changed and that non-profit groups, such as the DCLA, should be able to apply for the grant money for different projects.
All recommendations for the Legacy Amendment money, said Huettl, go to state legislators who make the decisions. People who have ideas or opinions on how the money should be spent should contact their local legislators. She encouraged Douglas County residents to contact Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria. She noted that he is an executive committee member of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
Huettl is trying to get the word out that the public can have a say on how the Legacy Amendment money should be spent. They need to get involved and contact those who can help, such as local legislators, WRC and BWSR.
“I want people to know they do have a say and that the more they say, the stronger the message will be,” said Huettl.
To contact WRC, call (612) 624-9282 or visit its website at http://wrc.umn.edu.
To contact BWSR, visit its website at www.bwsr.state.mn.us or call (651) 296-3767.