In 2010, North Dakota voters approved the establishment of the Legacy Fund, a constitutionally mandated state savings account that would collect 30 percent of all oil tax revenues. But the fund did not have a defined purpose.
North Dakota's oil tax fund now has $707 million in assets. The Legacy Fund gets 30 percent of the state's oil tax collections. None of the money can be spent until 2017, and even then it takes a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to dip into it.
More than a dozen Twin Cities groups that received Legacy Amendment-funded grants through the Minnesota State Arts Board in past years were stunned this year to find their applications rejected on what some say are technicalities. The Arts Board's more exacting approach comes in a charged political atmosphere that is focusing greater scrutiny on state funds intended for the arts.
Contained deep in last week's 93-page report from the Minnesota legislative auditor's report on the 2008 voter-approved tax hike that included funding for the outdoors was an interesting observation: Appropriations recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and approved by the Legislature show a distinct shift from wetlands to prairies over the first three years.
Minnesotans increased the state sales tax in 2008 to pay for conservation and traditional arts programs, not a billion-dollar sports stadium.
So, for House and Senate Republicans to contemplate using the Legacy money to build a stadium now is the worst kind of bait-and-switch.
"I think the voters were hoodwinked," said Andy Cilek, president of the Minnesota Voters Alliance, which is joining forces with the North Star Tea Party Patriots and the Northern Liberty Alliance on a repeal campaign.
An author of a $450 million bill allocating sales tax proceeds toward outdoors and arts projects promised shortly after it fell victim to the end of the 2011 regular legislative session that it would be back, but the House speaker offered no such guarantees.
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