The Free Press, Mankato, MN


February 12, 2012

Cross: Lawmakers heading in wrong direction with Legacy Fund

ST PETER — What is it with politicians and the English language?

Fifteen years ago, President Bill Clinton enlightened a grand jury on precisely what the word “is” really means.

And now some members of the Minnesota Legislature don’t quite seem to grasp the difference between the words “supplement” and “substitute.”

Four years ago, Minnesotans approved a constitutional amendment earmarking a three-eighths of 1 percent increase in the sales tax for conservation, clean water and the arts.

In Article XI, Section 15 of the Minnesota Constitution, a portion of the amendment reads: The dedicated money under this section must supplement traditional sources of funding for these purposes and may not be used as a substitute.

A third of the money was dedicated to an outdoor heritage council, a third to a clean water fund, 14.25 percent to trails and waterways and 19.25 percent to an arts and heritage fund.

By the time voters approved the 2008 Legacy Amendment, the Legislature was only appropriating 1 percent of the the general fund to conservation and clean water issues.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers faced with a gigantic revenue shortfall had to make budgetary cuts to the various departments. Most reductions were in the 5- to 10-percent range.

However, legislative funding levels for several state agencies dealing with conservation and clean water issues were cut much more deeply, as much as 40 percent in the case of the Pollution Control Agency.

Appropriation levels set by lawmakers always are moving targets but particularly in these economic times, consistent funding levels from biennium to biennium never are assured.

And in the face of the severe budgetary shortfalls Minnesota faced last year, budget cuts to the various agencies were necessary and understandable.

But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that some policy makers have decided that cuts to some agencies can be more severe and then mitigated by raiding the Legacy money.

Such action goes directly in the face of what Minnesota residents approved when they voted for the Legacy Amendment.

After decades of watching the quality of state natural resources decline and as related funding dwindled to 1 percent of the annual budget, voters decided that if lawmakers couldn’t act, they would. The amendment was approved by more than 60 percent.

Some policy makers claim to be confused by precisely what voters expected in all of this.

Actually, it’s all pretty simple.

Voters expected the Legacy money to be used to restore, protect and enhance our state’s resources, to augment the paltry general fund appropriations that hadn’t been enough to get the job done.

They understand that in the current economic landscape, budget cuts are necessary.

But they also can see right through a ruse that happens to cut budgets more severely for those entities that happen to have access to Legacy funds than those that don’t.

The operative word in the Legacy Amendment is supplement, not substitute.

Not very confusing at all.

John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by e-mail at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • mfp sports jcross outdoor column 7-20 Chasing walleyes in South Dakota nice We slowed to a crawl the other day on the dusty Day County township road in northeast South Dakota, a courtesy to the farmer who was baling ditch hay south of Webster.Otherwise, we would have enveloped him as he drove his open tractor in the choking

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fishing report Outlook on area lakes

    July 6, 2014

  • Cross column: No wake, no fish ... no problems on the water Patience is always a virtue when fishing.

    July 6, 2014

  • Cross column: Where does the buck stop in your home?

    Displaying your trophy catch can be debatable

    June 29, 2014

  • Know Your Lakes: Series maps

    Missed out on the weekly lake preview Wednesday's in the print edition? That's ok, we have you covered here. View the series thus far and download a printable PDF.

    May 24, 2011

  • Storms came at horrible time for pheasants For pheasants and pheasant hunters, there were no silver linings to be found in the storm clouds that inundated the countryside with heavy rains this week.A foot of rain falling in just a week is never good, but for pheasants, it came at precisely th

    June 22, 2014

  • Early morning is beautifully lonely Benjamin Franklin was on to something when he extolled the benefits of "early to bed, early to rise." While I can't vouch for its effect on health, wealth or wisdom, rolling out of the sack certainly seems to pay dividends for outdoor activities. The

    June 15, 2014

  • mfp sports cross column 6-1 Cross: Take a kid fishing, no license needed A few years ago, while cruising with a co-worker through an area community on a steamy summer day, we passed a vacant lot. There, oblivious to the heat and humidity, a group of kids were playing a game of pick-up baseball, racing down well-worn paths

    June 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cross: Once upon a time, when fishing was simple... Once upon a time, fishing was a pretty simple affair. A rod-and-reel, some bait and tackle, perhaps a rowboat if you were lucky, and you were in business. While the basic premise of angling -- to catch fish -- remains, it sure seems to have grown mor

    May 25, 2014

  • mfp sports jcross opening day 2 Almost too nice to catch Leech Lake walleye LEECH LAKE -- Opening day of the Minnesota fishing season on Leech Lake arrived Saturday, cloudless and with nary a breath of wind. It was the nice weather one might expect all winter-weary anglers to embrace as we motored away from harbors, resorts

    May 11, 2014 2 Photos