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Amendment brings new funding for clean water

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Amendment brings new funding for clean water
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

In Minnesota, our lakes are one of our most precious resources. We use them for recreation, fishing, and just gazing at their beauty. Funding for evaluating and protecting our lakes varies with every state budget. In tough economic times, natural resources are one area that tends to see cuts. This past week, Minnesotans voted to approve a new way to fund our natural resources. Out of a 77.9% voter turnout in Minnesota for this election, 56% of voters voted yes on the new amendment. In the current economic times, this support for increased taxing speaks volumes. So now that this funding is approved, what is the next step? Today I will explain what that amendment is about and who will oversee it.

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This amendment to our state constitution will increase the state sales tax by three-eights of one percent starting in July and continuing until the year 2034. Therefore, this is new money that would not be taken away from any other programs such as education. In addition, it can't be taken away from its intended use and balance the state budget. The Clean Water portion of the funding makes up 33% of the total and is estimated to generate approximately $90 million.

The estimated cost that this sales tax increase would add for each yearly income range has been calculated. Those making $19,737-$27,504 would pay on average $31 a year, those making $45,582-$58,509 would pay on average $52 a year, and those making $93,488-$129,879 would pay on average $92 a year.

So who will manage and distribute this funding? The Legislature has overall responsibility for determining how the state tax dollars will be spent, but councils or committees that include citizen members will provide advice. The Clean Water Council consists of 23 members, including 19 citizens appointed by the Governor and four non-voting representatives from the following state agencies: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, and Board of Water and Soil Resources.  This council is likely to play an important role in advising lawmakers about funding for surface water, ground water and drinking water problems and projects. To learn more about this council and who is on it, you can visit:

http://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/cleanwatercouncil/cwc-members.html.

Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, has spoken, and the results show a strong commitment to protecting and restoring our waters.

Enjoy the lakes!

(Moriya Rufer is the Lakes Monitoring Program Coordinator for RMB Environmental Laboratories in Detroit Lakes, 218-846-1465, lakes.rmbel@eot.com.)

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