Funding natural resources: A fair share?

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 29, 2008 - 5:01 AM

Lottery revenue never was considered the cure for state environmental and natural resource problems and contributes just a small share.

You've seen the ads touting the Minnesota lottery's contributions to the environment.

And it's true, the lottery -- launched in 1991 -- has directed millions of dollars to the environment and natural resources during the past 18 years.

So why are people pushing for the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment on next week's ballot? That constitutional amendment proposal would increase the state sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent to fund cleanup of lakes and rivers, pay for fish and wildlife habitat, parks and trails, and arts and cultural projects.

It's because even supporters say the lottery hasn't been -- and was never intended to be -- a panacea to deal with the many environmental and natural resource issues facing the state. Fewer than 12 cents of every dollar spent on the lottery goes to natural resources. Sixty-five cents goes to prizes and commissions, and almost 15 cents goes into the state's general fund.

"People think the lottery dollars are the answers to our problems, but the lottery provides a small fraction of the money needed for environmental issues,'' said former state Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount, a 24-year veteran of the Legislature who decided not to seek re-election this year.

Just cleaning up the state's polluted waters could cost $80 million to $100 million yearly for at least the next 10 years, Ozment said. He supports the amendment. About $258 million in lottery funds has been spent on various natural resource projects.

That's an average of about $14.3 million yearly.

"The lottery just doesn't provide enough funds to address critical issues for natural resources," said Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership and a former state legislator and Department of Natural Resources deputy commissioner. Morse also supports the constitutional amendment, noting it would generate nearly 10 times as much money as the lottery does for natural resources.

Opponents of the constitutional amendment argue the state already generates enough dollars for natural resources. They also object to a tax increase and to using the state constitution to dedicate funding.

"There's not a shortage of revenue, it's how it's being spent," said Phil Krinkie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, which opposes the amendment.

Supporters counter that the Legislature never has sufficiently funded natural resources, which receive less than 2 percent of the state budget. Morse and others say the lottery's legislative history supports their argument for constitutionally dedicated conservation funding.

Fifty percent of lottery proceeds were originally supposed to go to natural resources. Legislators later changed that to 40 percent and also "taxed" the first 6.5 percent of revenue in lieu of a sales tax and sent the proceeds to the state's general fund.

(Since 2000, 72 percent of that 6.5 percent has gone to fish, wildlife, parks, trails and zoos. The remaining 27 percent still goes to the general fund.)

Amendment supporters also point out that for 40 years, a tax on cigarettes funneled $350 million to natural resources, but legislators diverted that money in 2003 to the general fund because of a budget shortfall.

"Every other fund was raided by the Legislature, but the lottery funds are still there because it was constitutionally dedicated," Morse said.

The Taxpayer's League buttresses its argument by noting that the Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund has $438 million in it. But the fund was set up to be perpetual; only 5.5 percent of its value -- about $25 million this year -- can be spent annually. (The principle is invested and had been earning about 8 percent annually, but the stock market collapse has caused the fund to lose $27 million in value since June.)

Under the law, lottery funds will stop flowing to the fund in 2025. By then, there should be an estimated $1 billion in the fund, which should generate about $55 million yearly -- forever.

Trust fund appropriation is overseen by the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), a group comprised of citizens and legislators. The Legislature and governor must approve the commission's recommendations.

Ozment said the amendment allows voters to decide how important natural resources are to the state. He sees few options. The state is facing another budget deficit. And other issues, such as transportation and health care, always are a priority.

Ozment says the choice is either pay a small sales tax increase now, or pay more later.

"Our environment has the ability to absorb short-term neglect. What it can't do is absorb long-term neglect. If the public doesn't do this now, they will end up paying big sums of money later to try to correct the problem. Because it's not going away.''

For more information, see www.lottery.state.mn.us/etf.html or www.lccmr.leg.mn/

  • related content

  • Environmental expenditures

    Tuesday October 28, 2008

    Since 1991, when the Minnesota Lottery began, about $258 million has been spent from the Environmental Trust Fund, which is funded by lottery proceeds. That averages about $14.3 million a...

  • Fearful Minnesota arts groups hope for tax windfall

    Tuesday October 28, 2008

    If the Legacy Amendment passes, it could triple the arts budget. But that's not how to do business, critics say.

  • Amendment supporters pitch ballot issue

    Wednesday October 29, 2008

    Supporters of the constitutional amendment that would increase the Minnesota sales tax and dedicate most of the revenue to natural resources held news conferences around the state Tuesday. The group...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City 4 Bottom 3rd Inning
San Francisco 1
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 2 FINAL
San Jose 1
Boston 4 3rd Prd 11:49
Toronto 0
NY Rangers 1 3rd Prd 12:17
Montreal 3
New Jersey 2 3rd Prd 9:46
Ottawa 1
Dallas 4 3rd Prd 5:33
NY Islanders 5
Detroit 2 3rd Prd 3:40
Philadelphia 3
Chicago 1 2nd Prd 9:20
St. Louis 1
Pittsburgh 1 2nd Prd 2:01
Nashville 0
Tampa Bay 1 2nd Prd 5:12
Minnesota 6
Florida 0 1st Prd 8:29
Arizona 0
Washington 9:00 PM
Calgary
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 FINAL
Rice 41
UAB 17 FINAL
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Minnesota 24 FINAL
Illinois 28
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia 27
San Jose St 31 FINAL
Navy 41
Northern Ill 28 FINAL
Eastern Mich 17
(25) UCLA 40 FINAL
Colorado 37
Akron 21 FINAL
Ball State 35
Massachusetts 35 FINAL
Toledo 42
Ohio U 21 FINAL
Western Mich 42
Ga Southern 69 FINAL
Georgia State 31
Kent State 3 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 10
Oregon State 14 FINAL
Stanford 38
Fla Atlantic 16 FINAL
(23) Marshall 35
Louisiana Tech 31 FINAL
Southern Miss 20
(1) Miss State 45 FINAL
Kentucky 31
Georgia Tech 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 28
(22) West Virginia 34 FINAL
Oklahoma State 10
Texas Tech 27 FINAL
(10) TCU 82
Michigan 11 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 35
Boston College 23 FINAL
Wake Forest 17
Central Mich 20 FINAL
Buffalo 14
Vanderbilt 14 FINAL
Missouri 24
Old Dominion 51 FINAL
Western Ky 66
UNLV 20 FINAL
Utah State 34
Temple 14 FINAL
UCF 34
(15) Arizona 59 4th Qtr 3:00
Washington St 30
Texas-El Paso 34 4th Qtr 14:46
TX-San Antonio 0
Wyoming 10 3rd Qtr 4:05
Colorado State 38
Syracuse 6 3rd Qtr 6:36
(21) Clemson 6
Texas State 7 4th Qtr 12:00
ULM 18
(3) Ole Miss 7 3rd Qtr 11:50
(24) LSU 3
(4) Alabama 27 3rd Qtr
Tennessee 10
So Carolina 21 3rd Qtr 10:38
(5) Auburn 21
(13) Ohio State 10 2nd Qtr 4:02
Penn State 0
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Seattle 2
D.C. 1 FINAL
Montreal 1
Toronto FC 0 2nd Half 10:00
New England 1
Portland 1 1st Half 1:00
FC Dallas 0
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 24 FINAL
Toronto 26
Brt Columbia 13 13:45
Winnipeg 17
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close