More money for the arts?
Outdoors enthusiasts hope the eighth time is a charm for their favorite programs getting new money. They have tried with no success since 1999 to convince legislators to dedicate some of the Minnesota sales tax to hunting, fishing and related use...
Outdoors enthusiasts hope the eighth time is a charm for their favorite programs getting new money.
They have tried with no success since 1999 to convince legislators to dedicate some of the Minnesota sales tax to hunting, fishing and related uses. Sen. Dallas Sams, DFL-Staples, began a new effort Monday by announcing he will promote a constitutional effort to raise the state's sales tax from 6.5 percent to 6.75 percent to fund not only hunting and fishing, but also parks, trails, clean water programs and the arts.
"We're asking here about investing in the Minnesota core values," Sams said.
Sams and other Senate Democrats said the plan has enough votes to pass the Senate. They expect DFL support in the House, and just need a couple Republican votes in the tightly divided chamber to pass it.
The Sams proposal would divide the expected $191 million a year four ways:
n $65 million for fish and wildlife resources.
n $42 million for parks and trails.
n $42 million to clean up the state's water.
n $42 million for arts, humanities, museums and public broadcasting.
There is broad general agreement in both political parties and both chambers that a constitutional amendment is needed to increase outdoors and environment-related funding for things such as preserving lakes and saving wetlands. But House Republicans don't like a couple of Sam's provisions.
First, House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said that his chamber will not accept increasing the sales tax. He said House members would be able to support a similar plan that takes money out of the state's existing sales tax.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, said if money is taken from the existing sales tax, it will come from schools, health care and other important programs. Johnson said paying 25 cents for every $100 of goods purchased would not be a burden to Minnesota consumers.
The second major problem the plan faces in the House is adding arts funding. House leaders prefer that an amendment only fund outdoors programs and want one that spends less.
If the House and Senate pass a sales tax dedication proposal, it would be put in front of voters in the November election. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who does not want the sales tax to increase, does not need to approve a constitutional amendment, nor can he veto one.
One of the major problems senators found with earlier outdoors amendment plans was that people who support the arts thought they were being short-changed. Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said that has been fixed in Sams' latest proposal.
"I think (including) the arts helps a lot," Pogemiller said.
Outdoors leaders are less thrilled with adding the arts.
Joe Dugan of Pheasants Forever avoided directly answering questions about what his group thinks about including the arts.
Judy Erickson of the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council said the Sams plan does not give her interests enough money.
"Parks and Trails has identified more than $95 million in needed investments in Minnesota's state, metro and regional parks," Erickson said.
Democratic supporters emphasized the amendment's fishing and hunting aid. Johnson said 1.4 million Minnesotans own boats, proving how important sportsmen are to the state.
Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, said in northern Minnesota's tourism business, the money would mean more jobs.