More conservation funding means higher sales tax

University of Minnesota students can expect to pay a higher sales tax next summer, with TuesdayâÄôs passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. The amendment, which passed statewide with about 56 percent of the vote , will raise the state sales tax by three-eighths of a percent. Revenue will go to a fund for environmental conservation efforts and the arts. The tax, which will go into effect July 1, 2009 , is expected to generate between $250 million and $300 million per year, according to the Minnesota Department of Revenue . Election results for Minneapolis precincts near the University show the amendment was supported at a significantly higher rate than the rest of the state, with around 85 percent of area voters in favor. The Vote Yes campaign, which supported the amendment, estimated that the average Minnesota household will pay an extra $60 per year in sales tax as a result. Mike Weitekamp , who is in charge of communications for the University student group EcoWatch, said the group worked hard to educate students about the initiative. âÄúThe problem with the amendment wasnâÄôt a lack of support, it was a lack of knowledge about it,âÄù Weitekamp, an environmental science, policy and management junior, said. âÄúThe biggest thing was making sure people were educated.âÄù Once students found out what the amendment would be funding and how little it would cost, Weitekamp said most expressed their support. Still, Taxpayers League of Minnesota President Phil Krinkie said he was disappointed by the outcome of the vote, citing concerns about taking away budgeting powers from the Legislature. He said more essential functions of the government are currently underfunded and Minnesotans were treading a âÄúslippery slopeâÄù by creating new sources of dedicated funding through a constitutional amendment. Krinkie said there is no legal recourse to block the amendment from taking effect, but noted that only 5 percent of voters abstained from voting on the constitutional amendment, a number he considered to be abnormally low. If voters chose not to vote on the amendment, it was considered a âÄúnoâÄù vote. Krinkie said it may be possible to have the perceived irregularity investigated during the recount that is being held for the senatorial race. Pam Anderson , who works for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency , said MinnesotaâÄôs lakes are in need of funding. Anderson said the MPCA has tested 18 percent of MinnesotaâÄôs lakes and 40 percent of those tested are considered âÄúimpaired,âÄù meaning they do not meet the current standards for water quality. She said increased funding will allow the MPCA to test more lakes and implement more measures to help keep lakes clean. âÄúThis bill covers it all,âÄù she said. âÄúThe money from this amendment is really going to be helping every aspect of this process, from learning more about waters, lakes and streams in Minnesota to getting action on the ground.âÄù Spokesman for the Vote Yes campaign Charlie Poster said his group was pleased with the passage of the amendment, calling it a smart investment for MinnesotaâÄôs future. Poster said the Vote Yes campaign used social networking sites and hosted events to involve college students. âÄúYoung people get that we need to take care of our natural resources,âÄù he said. âÄúWe know we have to live with the consequences of inaction, ignoring these problems is not going to make them go away and I think kids get that.âÄù