I was opposed to the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment approved by Minnesota voters in 2008. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to public support of the environment and the arts. I think the money that the state sales tax has brought in to support clean water, parks, fish and wildlife habitat and the arts and cultural heritage, has been a good thing for the state. My opposition to the Legacy Amendment was born out of my concern that we were becoming much too lackadaisical in our eagerness to amend our constitution. I also questioned if a commitment to a 25-year sales tax was a sound economic decision.
Let’s remember just exactly what it was that was presented to Minnesota voters in November 2008 and what the majority approved. This was the question:
“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance and restore our wetlands, prairies, forest, 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.”
Now, Governor Mark Dayton, and other elected officials, have said that all options for funding a new Vikings stadium – including possibly using Legacy funds – should be on the table. To suggest that the construction of a sports stadium somehow meets the criteria of “cultural heritage” is absurd. It would be a clear violation of voter intent.
I’m not opposed to a small portion of public funds being used to build a new Vikings stadium. An economic argument can be made for the jobs a billion dollar project could create in the short-term and some additional, long-term economic benefits in the future. But if our elected officials want to support the stadium, they must find others ways to do so rather than attempting to use the Legacy Amendment as an easy fix.
Thankfully, Senator Dick Cohen of St. Paul has promised to bring a lawsuit should the state attempt to use Legacy funds for this purpose. The mere threat of a lawsuit should remove this option from consideration and Senator Cohen should be commended for his strong position on this issue.
Perhaps more can come from this than just a discussion on this particular constitutional amendment. Maybe, in the future, voters will consider all of the unanticipated consequences that can come from amendments to our state constitution.