Minnesotans celebrate legacy funds that enhance our state’s resources

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Senator Dick Cohen addresses a packed hall at the Legacy Amendment 10th Year Anniversary Celebration (photo credit: Freshwater)

By Matt Doll – Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Wednesday evening,  hundreds of legislators, advocates, state staff, and other interested Minnesotans gathered at the Minnesota History Center to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of one of our state’s great innovations – the Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment and the four funds it created to protect and enhance Minnesota’s future. Coordinated by MEP member Freshwater with help from MEP and several other organizations and supported by the McKnight Foundation, this celebration featured speakers and displays on how the funds make Minnesota a better place to live. Long time Legacy champion Sen. Dick Cohen introduced the current House and Senate committee chairs responsible for the funds, DFL Representative Leon Lillie and Republican Senator Carrie Ruud. They spoke about the fulfilling nature of working with the funds, and the great reward of seeing real benefits to Minnesota’s resources and heritage year after year.

For photos of the event, see the official album.

The four legacy funds

In November 2008, a large majority of Minnesotans voted in favor of the Legacy Amendment to the state constitution, which the Legislature had approved earlier that year. The amendment raised the state sales tax 3/8ths of a percent to create a big impact on Minnesota’s future. It dedicated this money to funds focusing on four important areas: Outdoor Heritage, Clean Water, Parks and Trails, and Arts and Cultural Heritage. Over the Legacy funds’ existence, they have invested  in thousands of projects across the state, helping state and local governments, nonprofit agencies,  schools and communities improve Minnesota’s resources and heritage.

Clean Water

The Clean Water Fund appropriates dollars for improving and protecting Minnesota’s water resources. It receives 33% of the Legacy Amendment sales tax dollars. The Clean Water Fund’s work includes testing drinking water supplies for health and safety, cleaning up polluted bodies of water, improving wetlands, and building partnerships with farmers to improve conservation.

Outdoor Heritage

The Outdoor Heritage Fund receives another 33% of Legacy Amendment funds, targeted to restoring and preserving vital wildlife habitat across Minnesota. It helps to protect the unique and beneficial aspects of Minnesota’s ecosystems and preserve the hunting and fishing opportunities important to our state’s economy and culture. The fund is so successful and generates so much demand that over the last ten years, it has only been able to fund 40% of the project requests that it has received.

Arts and Cultural Heritage

The Arts and Cultural Heritage fund receives 19.75% of Legacy dollars, turning that amount into dividends for the entire state. The projects it has funded – in every county in Minnesota – have helped increase art attendance and access by 60%, helped create thousands of jobs, and boosted the economic impact of arts and culture in Minnesota to more than $2 billion every year. The Fund also supports the Minnesota Historical Society and local organizations statewide to help preserve and disseminate important information about Minnesota’s history.

Parks and Trails

The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25% of Legacy funds to support Minnesota’s state and regional parks system. While Minnesota’s state park system is world-renowned (and the second-oldest in the United States), it needs significant work for upkeep, improvement, expansion, and accessibility. The Parks and Trails Fund helps upgrade and restore the parks, reintroduce native species, and make natural recreation spaces more accessible, especially to underserved communities.

Legacy Fund beloved by Minnesotans

MEP’s public opinion polling has found that after eight years of the Legacy Amendment, three-quarters of Minnesotans now support it – even more than the 56% who voted for it in 2008. The Legacy Funds’ revenue source is established through 2034, and we’re confident that as the Legacy Amendment continues to improve Minnesota’s resources and livelihoods, voters will continue to support this Minnesota treasure 15 years from now.

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