WATERWORKS Column by Gordon Prickett for The Aitkin Independent Age
NEW MONEY FOR CONSERVATION
By now there is a pot of new state money collected since July 1, 2009. It receives three-eighth’s of a percent from every Minnesota sales tax purchase. More than a dozen state agencies are reported to be receiving and distributing the proceeds from this voter-approved Legacy Amendment. While Governor Pawlenty was busy vetoing and condemning any future tax increases, the legislature and the citizens slipped this one by him, in a constitutional amendment that passed in November 2008.
One third of the new money is going for parks and trails plus arts and cultural heritage. The rest is equally divided - that’s one quarter percent - between the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund and the Clean Water Fund, for lakes, rivers, and aquifers. Following the money spent on the arts has not been difficult. Radio, television, and print media have been announcing the source of new legacy-funded programs. Public libraries, museums, theaters, and radio broadcasts have all shared in new tax-sponsored events.
State legislative committees receive annual accounts of this dedicated spending. The new money has been coming in for eighteen months. Tens of millions have been spread around. Those activities with qualifying “shovel-ready” grant applications on hand have successfully added to their budgets. This sales tax increment is for 25years, so worthy projects can expect to be continued.
A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION
My special interest is following the money that leaves Aitkin County, and tracking the money that finds it’s way back here. Especially, the clean water and fish-wildlife habitat money. In some of the early reports I have found identical titles for line items of the Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources. They both assess and monitor water quality.
I will ask the readers to help with my New Year’s Resolution to “Follow the Money.” As reports to the legislature become available I will digest them for this column. Already the Board of Water and Soil Resources in this region has given the Water Planning Task Force a look at their share of Clean Water funding in the current budget year. Aitkin County lakes will have a chance to apply for and share in money dedicated to water quality monitoring and improvement programs. Stay tuned!