Issue briefing: the hunting-arts brouhaha
Posted at 9:36 AM on February 2, 2007 by Bob Collins (4 Comments)
It's happening already; a little earlier than I thought it would. The salvos are being fired in the arts vs. environment debate. And just as in previous years, it'll probably be a draw. As I've noted in previous entries, there are a ton of bills at the Capitol this session to use either existing sales taxes, or an increase in sales tax, and dedicate the money at least to natural resources or hunting/fishing habitate.
In previous years, it's ended up as a "circus," pitting hunters and fishermen against patrons of "the arts' (whatever that means), because some lawmakers added cultural programs (including Public TV and Public Radio) to the mix. Some might view this as a primarily DFL tactic, and it probably is, but it's also worth nothing that the guy who proposed it in the House last year was Rep. Mike Charron of Woodbury.
A few months ago, he lost himself an election.
Today, Dennis Anderson, the fine outdoors writer for the Star Tribune, minces no words in firing the first public salvo in the war.
Particularly hilarious are the posturings of DFL metro bigwigs who insist again this year they won't lift a finger to clean the state's lands and waters unless they also can dedicate in the state constitution millions of dollars for the arts and public radio and TV, among other bottom-feeding lottery hopefuls.
Credit Anderson for at least saying with serious passion, what others have tiptoed around in the hearings so far in Sen. Satveer Chaudhary's Senate committee -- that these two sides don't like each other very much and that fact is likely to sink the effort again this year. In short, don't look for many MFL points with these bills.
So what's really going on here?
I have no firsthand information, but as a person who loves watching politics from the bleacher seats, here's my best guess. Jesse Ventura.
He was brash, he talked in English (sort of) and he won strictly because of his charm. Well, not really. He won partly because there was a constitutional amendment on the ballot about hunting and that brought a lot of people out to the polls.
DFLers, I'm guessing, are as worried about that happening again -- just as they were with a same-sex marriage amendment drawing a big non-DFL crowd to the polls in a coming election. Let's face it: "arts" people are considered DFLers and "hunters" are considered Republicans. I don't know if they really are, but that's the perception.
So anything that heads to the ballot, has to not endanger one party or the other. So a little for this group, and a little for that group.
Overlooked in this whole debate is another one -- a better one. Is using the constitution of the state of Minnesota for budgeting really a good idea? We just did it with transportation, and go read all of the bills submitted this session and see how more and more efforts are going toward changing the constitution to appropriate money to specific areas.
One might argue -- as many have -- that that's the lawmakers job at the Capitol. Only, they say, they haven't been doing it.
Ugh... this practice of using constitutional amendments for budgeting is seeming more and more like California and their ballot process. Not a place I want Minnesota to go.
Don't we elect these guys to make these decisions for us?
The question of constitutional changes v. legislation comes up often, with amendments etc.
Look at the transportation situation. Currently, transit funding has to be approved every year. However, the problem arises when the roads funding flows automatically to the DOT through the gas tax and other dedicated sources. Were a perfect world of legislative deliberation
a reality, we would not have to have a dedicated funding source this this. However, given the vagaries of the Minnesota Legislature (and consititution), the MVEST amendment is a decent solution to a long-standing transportation problem, and vital to shaping metro area
growth in an environmentally sustainable way. (And that's addressing one of the biggest problems of my generation: climate change.)
The question is slightly less relevant with environmental and arts funding, of course, but you still have to wonder if it doesn't make sense to build into the system a structural support for programs that have long-term costs and benefits, and inevitably get left out of last-minute, short-term budget battles.
But if you trace the "transportation system" upstream, the fact it was linked to the constitution, and -- thus -- became completely unflexible to changing needs.
Posted by Bob Collins | February 2, 2007 11:31 AM
Do remember though, that the reason advocates turned to the constitution in the first place is because legislators have failed to invest the money needed to protect or restore our lakes and forests.
I don't know if it is because you can't do a ribbon cutting next to a clean river or because healthy habitat doesn't correspond well with a two year electoral cycle or what, but when it comes time to cut spending, it has been pretty easy for them to not worry at all about about the on the ground consequences of their actions. Is it any wonder that duck hunters who notice they have less to shoot at or parents who have fewer safe places for their kids to swim start thinking about how to skip the politicians in the process of making things right?
Will it solve all problems? No. Could legislators just do it themselves? Yes (but the Governor definitely did not in his budget). Will it make a big difference if done right? Yes.