Among the more egregious examples of recent government efforts to stake permanent claims to the wallets of taxpayers was passage of the Legacy Act here in Minnesota in 2008. Ostensibly billed as a measure to protect Minnesota’s natural resources, in reality it was nothing more than a way to ensure that certain interest groups—the arts and outdoors primarily—would be subsidized in perpetuity and allowed to suckle at the teet of the taxpayer no matter what future budget crises or change in priorities might come. The taxpayers of Minnesota are now Constitutionally mandated to shell out for puppet theater and pheasant hunting land with no debate about whether such spending should really be within the purvey of the state or whether we can really afford such niceties given present fiscal realities. We might not be happy to pay more for better millionaire comic book authors to speak at local libraries, but damn it, pay we will.
Just over a year ago, our own Saint Paul pleaded for action to halt these handouts:
In other words, Republicans, find a way to do it. This is irresponsible spending and it will be unpopular with the public when it is accurately explained to them. If this amendment could be added to the state Constitution via public referendum, than it can be eliminated that way. Or, if you must keep your precious "clean water" funding, revise it to strip out the "arts and cultural heritage" provisions.
Today, he will be pleased (well, as pleased as a man of his disposition can ever really be) to learn that his call has been heeded and there is now an organized effort to Repeal the Sales Tax Amendment:
MINNEAPOLIS, May 26, 2011 – The Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA) and its coalition partners, the North Star Tea Party Patriots and the Northern Liberty Alliance (Duluth), today announced a state-wide effort to repeal the so-called Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution passed by voters in 2008.
"This Amendment should be repealed because it violates principles of government, is a political slush fund, and unfairly targets our poorest citizens who need their money more than they need the elite uses to which the $250 million per year raised by the tax are put," said Andy Cilek, president of MVA.
The coalition seeks repeal of the Amendment—which it calls the Sales Tax Amendment—principally because tax rates do not belong in the Constitution. The group believes that hard-wiring the .375% sales tax into the Constitution, creates a parallel legislature that prevents the money raised from being used for more important problem areas like healthcare, education, infrastructure, and law enforcement.
The ultimate goal is to place a question asking for repeal on the 2012 general election ballot. Toward that end, the group is working with legislators like Mark Buesgens and Tom Hackbarth who last week introduced HF 1723 in the Minnesota House calling for a repeal ballot question.
The group's website,Repeal the Sales Tax Amendment, has been constructed to explain the need for repeal, to keep interested parties up to date, and to enlist support.
The site was just launched and on it you can find more information about the efforts to repeal the Legacy Amendment, donate money to the cause, and sign an on-line petition to show your support. Getting this on the ballot is the first step to restoring some sense of fiscal sanity to this state.