Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bait and switch

Last fall Minnesotans approved the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Act, commonly called the Clean Water Act. Placed as a ballot question, it asked voters to approve a 3/8 percent hike in the state sales tax to fund water restoration projects, among other things. The 'other things' was always left a little vague, but funding for the arts was included.

A StarTribune letter writer in October pointed out that Minnesota already had a dedicated funding source for the outdoors, called the Minnesota State Lottery. The letter is no longer available, but I copied it in a post.

Today, the StarTribune reports that the legislative commission (LCCMR) charged with deciding how to spend the lottery proceeds on outdoor habitat wants to spend the money instead on 'a jobs program and solar energy project". (Emphasis mine) The reasoning for the diversion of funds? The lottery funds are no longer needed for habitat projects because the Clean Water Act funds will take care of it.

"There has been a growing chorus from LCCMR that it should no longer fund habitat acquisitions because of the new dollars [from the amendment],'' said state Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley.

Mind you , this is a Democrat complaining about the misuse of tax dollars.

I opposed the Clean Water Act because it was an additional tax in an already high tax state, and because state government should have the fiscal responsibility to fund what the voters feel is important without having to mandate it. Now that Minnesota is facing a huge budget deficit, the increased tax for the amendement means we will be required to spend money on the outdoors while cutting programs that might be more important in the short term.

Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, said she offered the changes in response to the state's growing unemployment rate and concerns by other legislators that jobs should be part of the bill. "Our unemployment rate is skyrocketing,'' she said. She said the LCCMR bill will have a better chance of passage at the Legislature if it addresses the jobs issue, too.

Government spending on unemployment or jobs recovery should be addressed by the full legislature and, if neccesary, paid for out of the general fund. Taking money from a fund sold to the voters as being for habitat to fund pork barrel liberal notions of big government is called bait and switch.

No comments: