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Preserving the integrity of the Legacy Amendment

ST. PAUL - In 2008, Minnesota's voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Constitutional Amendment also known as the Legacy Amendment. I was in the legislature and witnessed the debate as the amendment progressed through the legislative process and passed with significant support. Many local groups, organizations, and passionate citizens from all over our state worked hard to encourage passage of the amendment.

The Legacy Amendment is something special for all Minnesotans. Dedicated funds were constantly being raided to solve deficits within the state budget. The perfect example is the State Lottery. When I first arrived in the legislature, I assumed that when I bought a lottery ticket, which is advertised all over the state with our state bird the loon, that the revenue generated was going entirely to protect our environment. I was wrong. Nearly $67 million a year goes into the General Fund from the lottery which is 60 percent of the proceeds. This is wrong and is misleading the public.

In 2011, I was given the privilege to serve as the chair the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. I vowed that I would do all I can to uphold the constitution and do what voters intended in 2008 and not raid the Legacy funds to offset our $5 billion deficit. We were able to stay true to the voters' intentions and passed legislation that mirrored their intent. However, the temptation to raid dedicated funds may have returned.

Recently, there have been rumblings in the media that Legacy funds from the arts portion of the amendment may be used to contribute to a new Vikings stadium. As chair of the committee that provides oversight for the Legacy funds, I adamantly oppose this and will vote against any proposal designed to use them.

In 2008, it was clear to the public and to me what they were voting for with the Legacy Amendment and the true intentions of these funds. It was not a new billion dollar Vikings stadium. However, less than three years later, there are already rumblings to divert constitutionally dedicated money away from its true purpose.

I came to the Minnesota Senate in 2007. I arrived knowing that citizens were sick and tired of the same old political games and wanted accountability, integrity, and fiscal restraint. The voters wanted a new way for our state government to operate.

The voters gave us a clear message when they approved this amendment in 2008, and I want to be clear that I will uphold the message they sent to us. This does not mean I do not support a Vikings stadium. I am a lifelong Vikings fan and would be extremely disappointed if the team left.

During these tough economic times, it is a tough sell to the public that we need to spend taxpayers' dollars on a new stadium, but I am open to having a discussion on finding an appropriate funding source. However, upholding our constitution and teaching our future generations to make choices with integrity will do far more in preserving our state's legacy.