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OUR OPINION: Minnesota amendment’s support matters to N.D.

In November, just as North Dakotans vote on an amendment to embed conservation funding in their constitution, Minnesotans will mark the six-year anniversary of their own vote to do the same.

So, how has Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment fared?

Let’s ask Minnesotans themselves.

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership did just that, and North Dakota voters may want to take note of the results.

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership is a statewide coalition of conservation nonprofits. The partnership’s pro-conservation bias is obvious. But for its polling, the group takes pains to commission a bipartisan research team, one that includes both a national Democratic public-opinion research company and America’s largest Republican polling firm.

In February, the companies polled a representative sample of 600 voters statewide. And among other questions, they asked whether the voters favor or oppose the 2008 amendment, regardless of how they voted on it originally.

The result: The poll showed that “71 percent of Minnesotans favor the 2008 amendment, compared to the 57 percent of Minnesotans who voted for the amendment in 2008,” wrote Steve Morse, the MEP’s executive director, in an April letter to lawmakers.

“Since 2009, polling data also show that a consistent 70 percent of Minnesota voters agree that, even in tough economic times, amendment proceeds should be used to enhance conservation funding, and that ‘we must not let elected officials raid constitutionally dedicated conservation funds to solve short-term state budget problems.’”

In short, wrote Morse, “public support for the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and opposition to any raids is high and rising.”

With the start of any new public policy comes uncertainty about its prospects. Will the policy work as planned, or will the costs quickly outweigh the benefits?

A lot is at stake in the answer, because the public can and will turn against policies that don’t work.

But that hasn’t happened with the Legacy Amendment in Minnesota. Just the opposite: Support for the amendment has grown over time, if the Minnesota Environmental Partnership’s poll is to be believed.

That’s useful information for North Dakotans as they approach an amendment vote of their own.