Voters pass amendment to fund outdoors, arts

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota voters have said yes to raising their taxes.

They approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday that will raise the sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent to provide a new pool of funding for outdoors, environmental, arts and cultural programs.

The Clean Water, Wildlife, Cultural Heritage and Natural Areas Amendment required a "yes" from a majority of all voters to pass. Leaving that box on the ballot blank counted as a "no" note.

With 94 percent of precincts reporting, the amendment had drawn about 1.55 million votes in favor and about 1.1 million "no" or blank votes.


Unease about the nation’s financial woes had threatened to shrink support for the amendment, which will generate an estimated $300 million a year in today’s dollars, or around $11 billion over the next 25 years. The tax increase takes effect July 1, 2009.

The campaign — a coalition of more than 350 environmental, hunting and fishing, and cultural groups — said the amendment was needed because the Legislature has failed to provide enough funding for projects that meet their concerns. The groups also said the programs are likely to be squeezed further in the future.

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership issued a statement claiming victory hours before the outcome was clear, calling it "a great day for Minnesota."

"Voters have soundly chosen to protect the Minnesota we all love," executive director Steve Morse said. "Now our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy cleaner lakes, rivers and streams; abundant wildlife and natural areas; and parks and trails. "

The proposal started out as an outdoors-only amendment, but remained stuck in the Legislature for close to 10 years until arts and cultural programs were added to the mix to win more support.

Most of the organized opposition came from the Minnesota Taxpayers League and its affiliated No Sales Tax Increase campaign, which contended that Minnesotans are already overtaxed. Critics also opposed creating such a large dedicated funding source just for outdoors and arts programs, saying it should be up to the Legislature to balance spending in those areas against other priorities.

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