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State amendment passes

ST. PAUL -- Supporters of a proposal to raise taxes to fund outdoors and arts programs celebrated victory early this morning.

With more than 83 percent of precincts reporting, 58 percent of Minnesota's voters had supported a constitutional amendment to raise the state sales tax 0.375 percent to fund outdoors and arts programs.

Unofficial vote totals were 1,304,719 to 924,619.

Amendment supporter Steve Morse said Minnesotans sent a message that even in tough economic times, they "protect and value their natural resources."

"I think it just underscores how passionately Minnesotans feel about Minnesota," Morse said. "They don't want us to become a northern Mississippi."

Counting was complicated because ballots with no vote on the issue would be counted as votes against the measure. Morse said some discrepancies were reported in southern Minnesota.

The proposal faced several types of opposition, including from those who did not think that amending the constitution was the proper way to fund programs. The ballot measure asked for the tax to remain in force for 25 years. The only way to change it would be to amend the constitution again.

Another objection was that raising taxes is not needed to support outdoors and arts programs.

Many wondered whether the bad economic times in America would hurt the ballot measure. That did work against supporters, Morse said, but in the end voters decided to no longer put off increased investments.

The amendment was designed to produce funding for areas that supporters said seldom receive adequate money from the Legislature. Supporters said it would produce more than $273 million a year for conservation, parks, water and arts programs.

Much of supporters' emphasis was on projects to clean lakes and streams.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.