The Legacy Amendment
In 2008, Minnesota voters overwhelmingly approved an historic constitutional Amendment aimed at cleaning up lakes and rivers, protecting wildlife habitat and improving our parks and trails. Funding from the Legacy Amendment is already at work in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Conservation Minnesota played a lead role in passing the amendment, but we do not receive any of the funding. Instead, we have taken on the challenge of making sure the money is spent wisely and the public is kept informed.
The Legacy Amendment spells out that the newly dedicated funds “must supplement traditional sources of funding” and “may not be used as a substitute.” Our recent analysis of the state conservation budget discovered instances where the Legislature has used Legacy funds to backfill budget cuts. While politicians may continue to argue over whether these budget practices violate the legal standard, voters recognize this backfilling as exactly the kind of substitution prohibited by the Amendment.
Conservation Minnesota has joined the Legislative Auditor in calling on lawmakers to set clear guidelines for spending Legacy Amendment funds to ensure the public that funds are not being diverted. We have also created a vibrant partnership to inform voters of the projects receiving Legacy Amendment funds in their communities. We are working with Explore Minnesota, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts and local Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus around the state to create a series of events called Legacy Destination weekends. The events attract tourists and help the local economy while celebrating local outdoors, history and arts attractions that showcase the use of Legacy Amendment funds in each community.