In the great state of Minnesota, we have something called the Legacy Amendment which increased our state sales tax to create a slush fund for all kinds of extraneous goodies related to “outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage.” The result has been increasingly odious lobbying efforts to claim a slice of that taxpayer pie. Legislators can’t seem to give the money away fast enough. As the state wrestles with a $5 billion budget deficit, funds raised by the Legacy Amendment go to such essential items as paying a science-fiction writer $40,000 to speak to an audience of 500 at a small town library.
Like Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring, an effort is underway to repeal the Legacy Amendment in the same manner it was created, though a ballot initiative. In the meantime, the slush fund’s beneficiaries continue to squabble over the state’s fiscal crumbs like a hoard of orcs tearing at man-flesh.
Among them is Minnesota Public Radio. In a recent email to members, the public broadcasting organization pleaded for help in pressuring legislators to keep the gravy train flowing.
Minnesota Public Radio is proud to be a recipient of Minnesota Legacy Amendment funding that has allowed us to create over a dozen new arts and cultural programs over the past two years. Given the fact that MPR is our state’s largest cultural organization, reaching 96% of the state with free arts and cultural programming 24 hours a day, we believe this is money well spent.
Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives is proposing a significant and unprecedented cut to MPR’s Legacy funding, even as the pool of Legacy funds is growing. This is not about deficit reduction — Legacy Amendment funding is constitutionally dedicated and cutting MPR will do nothing to help the state’s bottom line(…)
Without this vital funding, MPR will be forced to cancel many of these new programs that impact hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans.
It is true that shifting Legacy Amendment funding from MPR to some other boondoggle will not affect the deficit. Like passing the Ring from one bearer to another, it does nothing to squelch its evil. However, there’s little doubt that MPR and others will raise similar objections once the Legacy Amendment repeal effort picks up steam.
When that happens, the “impact” upon “hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans” will be apparent in how quickly they chip in – out of their own pocket – to keep MPR’s programs afloat. Minnesotans can take a look at those projects and start saving their nickles and dimes now. Of course, Minnesotans are just as likely to look at MPR and decide they’d rather put their money in the gas tank, or spend it on food. The bottom line is, they ought to have that choice.
The measure of MPR’s value is the same as any product or service, whatever someone is willing to pay for it. If MPR is truly as valuable as they make themselves out to be, they should have no problem raising the funds to continue. Alas, MPR is not confident in the value of their product, and unwilling to rely upon the market to judge its worth. Instead, they turn Minnesotans against each other in a proxy war to plunder on their behalf.
MPR is hardly alone in such schemes. There are ostensibly “conservative” constituencies just as willing to mug their neighbors for some esoteric “public good,” which just so happens to line their pockets.
Regardless of who the perpetrators are, the practice is wrong and must come to an end. That’s the point upon which the Legacy repeal effort will succeed, and upon which the truly vital conduct of government will progress.