Will You Vote for the Constitutional Amendment?

The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment would increase the state sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent, which would raise ~$300 million each year in new revenue…approximately $54/family for more than 25 years.

According to the Census Bureau, Minnesota already has the 7th highest per capita tax burden in the nation. Earlier this spring, our elected officials voted to raise our taxes nearly $7 billion dollars in gas tax, license fees and sales taxes. There is no end to the spending spree in St. Paul, and the taxes just go higher.

And while it’s no secret I’m not a big fan of increasing spending while raising taxes, I’m more concerned about allocating funds through the constitution to pay for things.

Pretend it’s not culturally popular topic of the environment it’s funding. Take the emotion of the 30 second “Save our Drinking Water” commercials and think about the longterm impact of this action.

If we change our constitution to fund natural resources what could be next? Mass transit? Or what if you heard this on the local news:

“Voters across Minnesota today overwhelming passed a Constitutional Amendment to allocate three-eighths of 1 percent, ~$300 million a year in new revenue, to keeping public swimming pools clean and preserved for the generations”

There’s that slippery slope again.

It was always my assumption it’s the legislative branch’s responsibility to allocate funds, balance the budget and raise taxes. If the politicians in St. Paul aren’t doing their job, do we really want to turn our state’s founding document into a balance book to be amended every November?

What do you think?

18 Comments so far

  1. Erica M (ericam) on October 28th, 2008 @ 1:53 pm

    As I said down here, I’m not opposed to the quantity of dollars or the purpose, but I am opposed to the method, so I will be voting no.

    As far as funding mass transit, we did do that when we passed the transportation amendment two years ago. I agreed with that one on principle (though less so than this particular amendment) but voted no then, too.

    If it weren’t a culturally popular topic, it wouldn’t have a chance of passing, so I don’t think the slippery slope argument is that valid. The proponents have done a really good job of branding on this one, and I feel badly considering a lot of people I know and care about have their livelihoods invested in the arts.

    But still. No budget decisions by constitutional amendment.


  2. greg on October 28th, 2008 @ 2:08 pm

    What’s your take on the average stupid voter who will see this for the first time on the ballot? I read the ballot verbiage somewhere (can someone find it?), and it sure seems rigged to be politically correct to check yes.


  3. Erica M (ericam) on October 28th, 2008 @ 4:25 pm

    Ballot verbiage:

    CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
    Failure to vote on a constitutional amendment, will have the same effect as Voting no for the amendment.

    To vote for a proposed constitutional amendment, completely fill in the oval next to the word "YES" for that question. To vote against a proposed constitutional amendment, completely fill in the oval next to the word "NO" for that question.

    CLEAN WATER, WILDLIFE, CULTURAL HERITAGE AND NATURAL AREAS
    Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?

    If the fact that it’s clearly a constitutional amendment doesn’t set off their internal alarm, then they’ll be going with their gut on the cause vs the tax. They’ll have no info on the oversight or how the funds get divvied up.


  4. pyrodogg on October 28th, 2008 @ 8:44 pm

    The be honest I was one of those people that hasn’t looked at the ballot passed the major candidates, till now. I’d heard about this before but it never REALLY sunk in that it’s a constitutional amendment. Now I’ve done some reading and thinking and I too am opposed to this because of the method. I don’t think this necessarily belongs in the constitution.


  5. Erica M (ericam) on October 29th, 2008 @ 10:25 am

    Read the YesForMN.org FAQ. Very informative.


  6. johnjohnson on October 29th, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

    Vote NO on this environmental wacko proposal. Minnesota has a DNR which has a budget of nearly 100 million per year, this is enough!! Less than 6% of every dollar spent on the environment actual is applied to the land in materials or direct conservation practice costs, the rest is wasted on poorly managed administration costs!!!!!!! A friend of mine has a creek that goes thru his hunting land, it is crystal clear but is labeled "impaired" by the MPCA because it does not have enough micro nutrients and organisms in it to support larger wildlife mammals – wow! Do you want all of the waters in the state to be labeled "impaired"? What will that do for tourism?? Vote NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!


  7. Erica M (ericam) on October 30th, 2008 @ 9:47 am

    You’re gonna have mis-administration regardless.

    Don’t forget that part of the funding goes to the arts, though it’s a much smaller chunk relative to the environmental stuff. I know that the chief architects behind this amendment are mostly hunters and up-north outdoorsy tpes.

    I may actually have almost changed my mind on this one. I still really dislike the idea of a constitutional amendment. The legislature has to approve putting the amendment on the ballot and as such it lets them pass the buck and absolves them of responsibility for making tough decisions (and potentially unpopular votes).

    However, I’ve decided that I don’t mind paying extra for things that I believe need funding when I have the money to pay. And in this case I actually have a say in it, unlike, say, Twins stadium funding.

    Still not sure yet. May be a game time decision.


  8. greg on October 30th, 2008 @ 10:58 am

    I like that we get to vote for it, too. But I still don’t believe it should be an amendment to our constitution.

    And funding to the arts? In a constitution bill for the environment? See – next up is public swimming polls. I’m telling you, our government loves the slippery slope.


  9. David (jacc) on October 30th, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

    Erica – Possible Flip Flopper.

    The thing that bothers me is the constitutional amendment part. Government by referendum is a slippery slope and a look at California shows just how bad it can get.


  10. Erica M (ericam) on October 30th, 2008 @ 2:19 pm

    And funding to the arts? In a constitution bill for the environment?

    That’s why I say it’s genius marketing. A lot of the people in support of the environment stuff are up-north hunter types. But the parallel message of "the best things about Minnesota are it’s natural resources and it’s culture" appeals to us city folk.

    Possible Flip Flopper

    I’ll own that. ;)

    For a lot of people, it will come down to whether their support of the cause outweighs their opposition to the procedure. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. I didn’t realize how much precedent there is for constitutional amendments like this in Minnesota (I’ve only been really paying attention since 2006). Not on the order of California, but it’s not unheard of.


  11. Constitutional Amendments as a Strategy for Your Cause | cinna.mn (pingback) on October 30th, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

    […] most important parts here are #1 and #3. This in mind, I may have almost changed my mind. As I noted in the comments of this discussion: The legislature has to approve putting the amendment on the ballot and as such it lets them pass […]


  12. johnjohnson on October 30th, 2008 @ 11:10 pm

    The up northern outdoorsy types DONT WANT ANYMORE REGULATION and that is what is going to happen if this passes. Show me 100 landowners who live north of Hwy. 2 that like the dnr, mpca and bwsr and I’ll eat my hat. This state is regulated by these groups to a point where people who have to get building permits to make life better as safer for the general public are at their wits end!!!!!! When was the last time you tried to improve a road or replace a culvert or clean a ditch??? Try these things and then you will be eating your hat. We already had one bridge fall in the river, well there are 100 more out there just like it, do you want to drive across it because it is still there and there permitting people are on vacation or are ornery and wont deal?


  13. Erica M (ericam) on October 31st, 2008 @ 7:53 am

    I’ll eat my hat

    So you’re against the amendment?


  14. johnjohnson on October 31st, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

    The current State Budget includes 500 million for the environment. 71.4 mill. for Trails & Waterways, 35.1 mill. for water resources, $140.1 mill. for forestry, $81.6 mill. for parks & rec., $180 mill for fish and wildlife. Also, there is now inplace 415 million for the Envir. & Nat. Resources Trust Fund. Also, from fees there are 27 million from fishing licenses, 15 mill. from deer lic. and 5.8 mill. for duck & pheasants. Isn’t this enough??


  15. johnjohnson on October 31st, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

    The former great Minn. governor would never have approved of this approach to environmental funding!


  16. Erica M (ericam) on October 31st, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

    Isn’t this enough??

    I don’t know, is it?

    And that’s just the environmental stuff. Don’t forget there’s arts funding in there, too, which anyone in the arts industry would certainly say there’s not enough money there.


  17. greg on October 31st, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

    Arts also should not be funded by constitutional amendment.

    Erica, you go ahead and check yes. I’m checking no, so we’ll cancel each other out. :)


  18. Erica M (ericam) on October 31st, 2008 @ 5:17 pm

    Erica, you go ahead and check yes.

    No no no! I’m still… undecided. I can argue it both ways, though. :P Just making sure everyone (that happens to read this) has the information.



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