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Tax amendment supporters say it's important for future

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Hastings, 55033

Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

WILLMAR -- Matt Holland, senior field coordinator with Pheasants Forever, will be voting "yes" for the Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment this November.

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But don't think this is about pheasant hunting for Holland.

It's all about his two young children and other young people in the state, he says. Voting yes is about giving the next generation the same opportunities to enjoy and discover the outdoors as we have, as well as protecting our drinking water and other vital resources for their future, he said.

"My concern is about my kids having the same opportunities,'' Holland said. He added that being able to enjoy the outdoors is a big part of the reason he makes Kandiyohi County his home.

Holland is part of a statewide campaign urging voters to approve the amendment in November's general election. If approved, the amendment would raise the sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent.

It would raise nearly $300 million a year for 25 years, according to Holland; Win Mitchell, state chairman of Ducks Unlimited; and Charlie Poster, communications director with the Vote Yes campaign.

More than 80 percent of the funding will be directed toward clean water, wildlife habitat and natural areas, according to information they provided during a recent visit to Willmar. Nearly 20 percent will support the arts and cultural resources of the state.

Minnesota is falling behind in protecting its natural resources. Some 40 percent of the water tested in the state is impaired, Mitchell said. It's as much a matter of assuring a safe supply of drinking water for the future as it is about duck hunting, he said.

Hunters and anglers have been more than willing to support our natural resources, but the revenues generated from licenses and other fees just aren't enough. All three men are optimistic that the majority of Minnesotans support the amendment. They also emphasized that this is a bipartisan measure, or as Poster heard one wag describe it: "The only Ds and Rs in this campaign are ducks and roosters.''

They said their main concern is getting the word out about the amendment's importance, and making sure people understand how it will work.

The increase equates to about $1 a week for the average Minnesota family.

The funds will be administered by a citizen and legislative commission. The monies will not go directly to the Department of Natural Resources or any other agency. The citizen and legislative group will decide where the funds go based on the merits of the requests they hear. That means local conservation, hunting and fishing groups all have opportunities to obtain funding for important projects right at home, Mitchell said.

The DNR and other state agencies will have to line up with everyone else and pitch the merits of their projects, he said.

"This is really good for everybody,'' he said.

Mitchell believes the proposal will foster the kind of cooperative ventures and partnerships that have made projects such as Swan Lake's restoration possible.

He is excited about what can be accomplished, but along with Holland and Poster, admits to some anxiety about the upcoming vote. Ballots left unmarked count as no votes, they pointed out. That means supporters of the amendment have to find support from more than a simple majority of voters to assure success at the polls.

There is urgency to this as well. The campaign to bring dedicated funding to the voters has taken more than a decade to accomplish. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a say on it, the three pointed out. Its failure would send a message that could harm efforts to protect natural resources for years to come.

And that's exactly why this vote is so important. It's all about the kind of future we give our children and grandchildren, Mitchell said.

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