The Big Story Blog

Auditor says Legacy Amendment needs more paper trail

Posted at 12:21 PM on November 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto

Here's a first look at the Legacy Amendment auditor reports from MPR News reporter Elizabeth Dunbar:

The state Legislative Auditor on Wednesday recommended more documentation be kept about how Legacy Amendment funds are spent to ensure lawmakers are complying with the law.

The report on how the Legacy Amendment has been implemented so far found inconsistencies in the structures and procedures used to oversee the funds. It said a requirement that the Legacy funds "supplement" and not "supplant" traditional funding streams has caused confusion and uncertainty.

Minnesota voters approved the constitutional amendment in 2008 to send a three-eighths-cent sales tax to the outdoors, clean water, parks and the arts. The report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor is the first in-depth accounting of whether the funds are being spent as intended and receiving proper oversight.

The Legislative Auditor also released a financial audit of three of the funds — outdoors, clean water and parks. It found that most internal controls to ensure Legacy money was being spent responsibly were adequate. But auditors found some problems.

For example, the report said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Soil and Water Resources could not demonstrate that certain Legacy expenditures complied with all the legal restrictions of the amendment. That included questions about what portion of an employee's salary should come from Legacy funds and whether the same portion of the employee's time was being spent on Legacy projects.

The Legislative Audit Commission, a bipartisan group of state representatives and senators, will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss the reports.

In the first two years of the amendment, the Legislature approved more than $450 million in sales tax money to fund programs that were carried out across the state. A similar sum has been allocated for the two-year period that began in July.

Thirty-three percent of the funds go to the outdoors; another 33 percent goes to clean water; the state's parks and trails receive 14.25 percent; and arts and culture programs receive 19.75 percent.

Minnesota Public Radio is among 18 public broadcasters receiving arts and culture Legacy money. MPR received $2.6 million in the first two years of the amendment and is receiving $1.3 million in the current fiscal year.

About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.

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