Pioneer Editorial: House plays politics with conservation
A large group of Minnesotans -- all of them concerned about preserving and protecting the state's valuable natural resources assets -- have been trying for years to provide a dedicated stream of funding just for that purpose. This year is perhaps...
A large group of Minnesotans -- all of them concerned about preserving and protecting the state's valuable natural resources assets -- have been trying for years to provide a dedicated stream of funding just for that purpose. This year is perhaps that year, except that a few legislators want to gum up the works which may again see nothing done.
The House Taxes Committee earlier this week strangely passed one bill with three separate constitutional amendment provisions. The goal, it seems, is to make a bill that no one will want to vote against, making it a poison pill that may actually backfire with no one supporting it.
The key provision is a constitutional amendment to dedicate a portion of the state's sales tax to conservation, including monies for cleaning up the state's impaired waters. An argument may arise over whether the amount -- three-eighths of 1 percent -- is taken out of the current 6.5 percent sales tax or in addition to it, but the measure itself is sound. It has the support of numerous conservation and sportsmen's groups, and Minnesotans have always supported measures to enhance and protect the state's environment.
The committee, however, endangered the measure by adding more sales tax to include dedicated funding for the arts, zoos and public broadcasting. That's a wrong direction, and expands the idea of dedicated funding far a stream. Why not dedicated funding then for K-12 education? For beaver control? For a set number of state troopers? Why not charge 100 percent sales tax, and do away with the state's general fund?
Elsewhere on this page, Rep. Frank Moe and a colleague argue about the conservation amendment and why an unfettered amendment is needed.
The committee also added to the bill a constitutional amendment provision banning same-sex marriages. The House already did that, and doing it again is unnecessary and is a poison pill to the needed conservation amendment. Also attached is a constitutional amendment provision on using motor vehicle sales taxes, changing the wording of a question which will be before voters this fall on the percentage dedicated to roads and transit. It is a needed debate, but should not be allowed to hamper the conservation amendment.
It's obvious the House Taxes Committee wanted to play politics, and we could sit back and appreciate the humor of it all if the key provision -- the constitutional amendment to dedicate funding for conservation -- were not so important to Minnesota's future. The Taxes Committee's goofy bill now heads to at least three other committees. We only hope those panels realize the seriousness of the issue, and put the conservation amendment on a separate track and then before voters this fall.