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 Response Page - Voter Referendum - November, 2008   


These responses to the DRAFT statement on this issue were taken into consideration,
along with the comments from interviews that
touched on this subject,
as the final Position Report was created.

 
Responses to Civic Caucus statement on the 2008 Minnesota Constitutional Amendment
regarding outdoors, water, and the arts.


_9.2 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, what is your position on the statement?

Roy L. Thompson
I think a good job was done on the constitutional amendment. The statement covers most of the significant objections to passing the amendment. I question the length of the summary or perhaps a "bullet" summary is needed. There may be a few that would be stimulated to read more or influenced by the short summary. I offer the following as an example following your introductory statement:

1. Lawmakers are elected ("hired") to study options, represent the
voters and live by their decisions.

2. It reduces the Legislators and Governor's flexibility to meet
changing crucial needs.

3. It enhances specific interest groups and reduces general public influence.

4. The amendment would be practically impossible to modify or repeal for changing conditions or needs.

5. It will encourage future special interest groups to seek similar funding preferences.

6. Rarely are available funds sufficient of all requests. Past allocations do not indicate outdoors, water and arts have been treated unfairly.

7. If approved there is a suggestion but no guarantee new money will be additive to present or future allocations.

Following these bullets would be the longer summary statement.

Carolyn Ring (10)

It looks great and covers everything very well without getting too cumbersome. You did a terrific job.

John Nowicki (9)
This is the Legislature's job. If we continue down this path, why not have all issues settled this way? The Constitution is the basic law of the State. The Legislature should use it as a guide when drafting laws not modify the basic.

Dennis Johnson (10)
Congratulations on an excellent draft statement. The position is correct and detailed budget allocations have no place in a State Constitution, in fact it is an absurd idea to anyone with any sense at all.

James L. Weaver (10)

The statement is well written and to the point.

What other reasons should be highlighted for opposing the amendment?
Abdication of leadership in our state government.

This is one of the most important positions taken by the Caucus. Legislation by constitutional amendment suggests that we no longer can expect our elected to do their duty. Why I am I not surprised?

Cam Gordon (0)
I support the amendment and think that the statement is wrong. It is totally within the power of the legislature to put this on the ballot and to allow the voters to vote on it.

What suggestions might you have for strengthening the statement?
Change it from one of opposition to one of reasoned support.

What other reasons should be highlighted for opposing the amendment? None that are good.

What other background information would be helpful? Explore the other ways the voters have been allowed to restrict or direct state funding in the past.

Kent Eklund
This is one I have to take a pass on for several personal and corporate reasons. I agree with much of your analysis, but have some other commitments that preclude affixing my name to this report. But, that said, good work!

Craig Westover (10)

Put me down as a 10 in agreement with your statement. Forgive my enthusiasm, but I did a rewrite on Section A. I think you need to set up some principles before you get into specific reasons. The Declaration of Independence is a great model -- first it lays out the self evident truths that compel independence then it lists the specific reasons. I tried to do a little of that. I also added two reasons -- the structure of the amendment, which doesn't allow voters to vote yes on the outdoors and no on the arts -- two discrete activities -- or visa versa. I also note that the tax is regressive, which has some significant implications.

General comment, I don't see a need for section "C" -- some of that information could be included in the reasons is section A or it should be framed differently so it doesn't look like the same stuff. I would make the background document, which is very good, a separate document, not part of the statement.

Ellen T. Brown (10)
What suggestions might you have for strengthening the statement? I think point seven in the summary could be stronger, pulling a bit more language from the detail. This outcome seems to me a very real possibility. I wonder if there is useful data relative to the dedication of the lottery money to education and the environment and how that has affected general appropriations in those areas.

The funded categories are important to me; but the principle wins out in my judgment. I was almost swayed recently by someone who argued that the basics (education, health, etc) will always get funded but when times are tough, the items funded by the amendment, which are actually crucial to our quality of life but not always accepted as such, are likely to suffer. Strong point but I still think the principle is stronger.

Bob Brown (10)
I think you guys have done a very good job with your argument. I have always felt that the transportation constitutionally dedicated taxes created several problems: They did not provide the funding where it was most needed at any particular time as the needs of transportation changed; It gave opponents of increased funding for roads, bridges, transit, etc. an excuse to oppose any increase when needed because "they already have their dedicated funds;" It tied funding to the gas tax which could not keep up with needs as people tried to respond to each of the last three energy crises; and it raised issues with creative legislators who could interpret the amendment in a variety of ways - for example, could the costs of operating the highway patrol be borne by dedicated funds since the purpose of the highway patrol was safety on our highways or could the cost of the administration of the Transportation Department be charged off to the dedicated funds rather that the state departments appropriations?

Creative legislators will find ways to interpret any such dedicated amendment in ways to accomplish what they want, but it will be a less transparent way to finance state activities.

Donald H. Anderson (8)

Robert A. Freeman (8)

What suggestions might you have for strengthening the statement? It would be much stronger if it were to be about half as long.

What other reasons should be highlighted for opposing the amendment? None that I'm aware of.

What other background information would be helpful? Case studies from other states.

Agree with what amendment is trying to accomplish but believe abdicating responsibility by throwing back to the people is government at its weakest

Jane E. Kirtley
Shorten the summary, or include a briefer "executive summary" as well.

The long explanations and backgrounders are terrific for those with the temperament and time to read them. But these days, most people have short attention spans and their eyes will simply glaze over when they see that the "summary" runs on at length. You make some very good points here, but the impact will be lost on many because of its length. You aren't trying to persuade the thoughtful person who is already knowledgeable about civic affairs, I'd suggest, and who will read and digest whatever you write, however long it is. You're trying to persuade the person who has only a very few minutes (or thinks she does) to devote to this question.

Pam Ellison (10)
What suggestions might you have for strengthening the statement? I believe the statement is worded well and cannot think of any additional angles to shed more light than you have already shed.

What other reasons should be highlighted for opposing the amendment? I think you could further emphasize that once we start down the road of constitutional amendments, there will be more and more that will be pushed for consideration. I think a reminder about states like California who end up with a booklet of amendments to vote on at each election should show that this just further creates more red tape for the taxpayer and elected officials by further blurring the real purposes of why we elect representatives. If the general public is going to be continued to be hammered with more and more initiative and referendum type legislation, then what would the purpose of the legislature be? This weakens democracy because it seems that more citizens would be forced to make decisions on issues of import that the majority will fail to educate themselves about, and therefore cause them to just not vote on these things, or will cause them to have further apathy about voting at all.

I agree with the rationale of the statement, and believe that it sends a strong message to the legislature that we EXPECT THEM to act and do the work that is set before them, difficult or not, that is what they are elected for.

Peggy Scott
1) The legislature should have left the Lessard dedicated funding as it was, taking 3/16ths of a cent of the current sales tax for funds dedicated to wildlife habitats.

2) I oppose the current amendment because:
a) It creates a "new" tax
b) The tax is regressive
c) This is the "easy way out" for legislatures
d) The arts have nothing to do with the original Lessard piece
e) If we amend the constitution for this it will open the door to further amendments that should also be decided by the legislature.

Wayne Jennings (9)
What suggestions might you have for strengthening the statement? You covered it well.

What other background information would be helpful? Include the wording of the amendment as an appendix.

Well-worded and a good stand on a tough issue to oppose.

Donna Anderson (10)
Overall, well-done. Would need to read and consider the statement carefully to provide helpful suggestions.

David Pundt (10)
What other reasons should be highlighted for opposing the amendment? The advisory groups to select projects for history and the arts have not been chosen. Without knowing who or how they will be selected, the amendment asks voters to dedicate money blindly.

Nicely written and researched.

Ray Ayotte (10)
Well written and convincing case.

Roger Heegaard
I agree with the Civic Caucus and oppose the proposed environmental amendment.

Leonard J. Nadasdy
I oppose the proposed amendment for the very reasons stated by the Civic Caucus. Len Nadasdy, Past Chairman of the Minnesota State Arts Council

David Carlson
Essentially you're asking me if I support a tax increase that goes to arts and outdoors funding? I do not support the constitutional amendment on the ballot this year, and will be voting against it in November.

Tom Swain (10)

Catherine Anderson (10)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (10)

What suggestions might you have for strengthening the statement? I think the statement needs to talk about what goes into a Constitution and what does not. It can not be subtle. It is difficult to amend a Constitution and it is difficult to change or amend the Constitution. Usually something in the Constitution is there forever or until a major need occurs so that it has to be amended. It is very bad public policy to ever put tax policy into a Constitution. The illustration that you use of the highway amendment is a good example, but it needs to spelled out more clearly that as cities grown they need more highway money, but it is limited by the Constitution or if the state have a major need for more highway funds, it is limited by the Constitution and will need extra appropriations. People need to understand just how bad this type of amendment is for the future public.

What other background information would be helpful? More on what is a
Constitution and how should it be used.

There is repetition in the statement and this needs to be cleaned up. In the sentence just before the last #5, there is a "of from" and that needs to be changed. In general, I find the arguments very good, but in some cases they are put out there, with no conclusion drawn to close the argument.

David Broden (10)
1. What suggestions might you have for strengthening the statement? Add a hard hitting upfront summary of the key points of why the Amendment should be defeated. The entire document makes the point well but some people may want a short quick summary. I also am concerned that the amendment may be somewhat regional focused or have regional preference and not really be a statewide issue which is very important--conservation of agricultural land is as important at water and northern Minnesota areas but often not addressed in the same context or recognized by the public in the same way.

Another upfront point to emphasize is the point you make in the statement and that is we elect representatives to make decisions--we are a representative republic form of government which makes decision based on real time informed data and discussion--this removes that fundamental approach which some very wise folk based our government on--seems like we always want to meddle not work the system as it was intended and responsible.

2. What other reasons should be highlighted for opposing the amendment? How would this really be a Statewide focus vs. special interest allocation of funds or unique regions who have the pressure people to make dollars flow to the area?

Who is accountable for this funding--seems like it is one of those situations where the funding is available lets use it--rather than allocate to have some value added--accountability is a strong argument for not passing this amendment.

The legislative process must have the ability to debate how funds are both raised and obligated/spent. This amendment removes this responsibility one more time and continues to make a larger percent of the annual/biennial state budget to be dedicated funds for which the elected personnel have no responsibility. We must allow our elected officials to work thru discretionary funding allocation, amount, and spending related to resources that are available--including economic conditions etc.

3. What other background information would be helpful? A background statement on how much funding is allocated to environment/natural resources and art in the past and now--how the amount has changed--sources of funds--view of the legislature when request for these items are brought forward -is there really a lack of interest and support or is the debate on priorities and needs vs. other items?

Marianne Curry (10)
First of all, this draft is very well reasoned and contains all the salient points. I would suggest a one-page Executive Summary in bullet point format and perhaps use of underlining in the body of the report. Try to eliminate repetition between the summary and the body.

I believe that the central issue is GOVERNANCE. You make this point on page
2 item 7 but it is buried. So, under page 2, item 2 I would emphasize that this proposal takes specific programs off the table for biennial reconsideration of state budget making, thereby reducing flexibility and increasing the "structural problem" of state budget finance, which essentially means creating future and on-going obligations that cannot be reversed. On page 2, item 4: underline "The Legislature shortly etc. Somewhere under item 7, page 2, the point needs to made that the single most important function for which we elect legislators is to allocate tax revenues based on currently perceived priorities, which change over time. That is what I mean by "flexibility."

On page 3, last paragraph under item 1, here the key is the definition given to "traditional sources." That is how legislators fudge the general fund.

On page 4, the end-run statement serves temporary purposes for the party that does not control the executive branch, but is short-sighted, because it could backfire. Under item 3, it should be noted that funding recommendations are not the proper function of non-elected officials: the creation of this special interest group even to "recommend" allocations transfers the most fundamental function of elected officials to special interests. Bad public policy!!

I like your example of how the transportation amendment set in stone the priorities for allocation of State Highway Trust Fund for over 50 years. Perhaps you could also note that MN spent only 50% of Federal Highway Trust Fund money dedicated to bridges, which now necessitates Oberstar carrying another bill to ensure this money is spent for its intended use. So much for "dedicated." Legislators will borrow from Peter to pay Paul if they can get away with it to avoid raising taxes in election years by "borrowing" from dedicated funds to enhance the General Fund. I've seen it happen. And the media pay no attention, because they don't understand the budget process. Where is public accountability or do we just wait for more disasters like the I35 bridge before we take a serious look at the governance question and the budget process itself.

I agree with this statement. Give it a 10.

Richard McGuire (8)
I think it is well drafted.

John Rollwagen
This is an excellent statement. In my opinion, it makes quite clear the ridiculous and even dangerous nature of this proposal.

I believe it would have even more impact, however, if you reduced the summary to a single page and then attached everything else as background material. The way it is now, Section C is actually redundant with the current summary.

Anyway, it's hard for me to believe that a thinking person would even consider supporting this amendment. What a bad idea.

Tim Olson
I already oppose this on my web page as I foresee it restricting the recreational use of our lands and lakes in the future. It is an issue unworthy of a Constitutional Amendment.
40% of our lottery proceeds already go to the "environment." As an aside, I oppose Met Council involvement in the park system and want regional parks returned to the county level.

Bob White (9)
This is a powerful, persuasive statement. Perhaps it could be shortened, to sustain readers' interest, but the arguments are so clearly advanced that I'd hate to see much abbreviation. Excellent work!

Dave Detert
I do not agree with your position on the constitutional amendment.

Charles Lutz (9)
What other background information would be helpful? Was legislative support (and opposition) bipartisan? Was final vote on amendment proposal overwhelming or did it barely carry?

Joe Lampe (10)
It looks good to me as written. Good work!

 

    

The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and  John Rollwagen.  


The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.  civiccaucus@comcast.net
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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