Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would dedicate a portion of the state sales tax to natural resources and the arts hope a combination of money and "people power" will win approval for the plan in the November election.
About 100 supporters formally launched that dual-track campaign Tuesday at Hyland Park Reserve in Bloomington, vowing to raise and spend several million dollars on the "vote yes'' campaign that also will enlist hunters, anglers, conservationists, environmentalists and supporters of parks, trails and the arts.
"This November, the things we treasure here in Minnesota are on the ballot,'' said Ken Martin, director of the Vote Yes Minnesota campaign, a coalition of 200 environmental, conservation, outdoors and arts organizations. "This [amendment] will protect our waters, land and way of life. If we don't act now to protect these great natural and cultural resources, they will be lost forever.''
The theme of the campaign is "Protect the Minnesota you love.'' Advertising will begin later in the summer, Martin said, but the grass-roots effort already has begun.
Joining Martin on Tuesday was an eclectic group of supporters and speakers, including former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson and former DFL Gov. Wendell Anderson, polar explorer Ann Bancroft and former Vikings coach Bud Grant. Carlson said funding levels for natural resources and the arts have been "wholly inadequate.''
"This state is on a directional course that is no longer acceptable,'' he said. "We have to convince people that voting for this amendment is not only the right thing to do, but it's also the legacy that we want to leave to our children and grandchildren.''
Supporters said they are optimistic Minnesota voters will approve the amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot, even though passage would raise the state sales tax by 3/8 of 1 percent. That would cost the average household about $56 a year, the group estimates.
The amendment would raise about $270 million annually for 25 years. About $90 million would be used to develop and improve fish and wildlife habitat, and a citizens-legislative council would oversee spending; another $90 million would go to help clean up Minnesota's lakes and rivers. And $90 million would go to parks and trails, the arts and cultural heritage.
"I think it will pass,'' said Joe Duggan of Pheasants Forever, one of many conservation groups that have supported the idea. "Minnesotans' interest in the outdoors is a strong one and this is critically important to our future.''
Said Ryan Heiniger, Ducks Unlimited director of conservation programs in Minnesota and Iowa: "I'm convinced we'll never have another opportunity like this in our lifetime.''
Martin, a veteran of several congressional and statewide campaigns, said he expects some opposition to the amendment. And Phil Krinkie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, told the Associated Press Tuesday that his group will mount a campaign to defeat the amendment.
And high voter turnout at the polls for a presidential election could work against the amendment.
"If they vote for president and leave without voting on the amendment, it counts as a 'no' vote,'' he said.
The two former governors said they believe Minnesotans will approve the amendment.
But, predicted Carlson, "it will be close.''
Doug Smith • 612-673-7667