As a relatively young and modest-sized organization that deals in depth with statewide issues, Growth & Justice tackles one big project at a time. That's so we can do each one ... justice.
Our mission says we are "committed to making Minnesota’s economy simultaneously more prosperous, fair and environmentally sustainable." Having started with workforce development, tax fairness, strategic investment and education, we haven't yet, with any comprehensive study, worked our way over to the crucial principle expressed at the end of that sentence.
But this year environmental sustainability will be on policy makers' minds — and possibly on the ballot — in more ways than one.
Gas tax discussions will be about both preserving the environment and sustainably funding transportation. Conservation interests will be back making their case for sustainable funding for clean water and habitat preservation. Ironically, boosting production of biofuels is one reason the state's wildlife habitat is in peril, as outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson points out, so throw farm policy and land use into the mix, too.
Environmental groups, represented by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, favor a version of a constitutional amendment that dedicates a portion of state sales tax to fund clean energy and arts in addition to the wildlife, land preservation and clean water focus on the conservation agenda. Neither group got its way last session, so the competing amendments will be back for another hearing.
Sustainable funding isn't just one group's issue. Roads and bridges, clean water and energy, hunters and fishermen, and transit and cultural interests will all be making a case in the coming year.
Present levels of public funding can't sustain even one of these, and private initiatives can't pay the bills, either. So the discussion has to address how much more we can afford and who pays.
Constitutional amendments that dedicate funding can be problematical, especially as they lock up more of the budget and reduce flexibility to deal with change and the unforeseen. Before we tackle more amendments, the bigger issue in Minnesota right now is finding the will to invest more in our state.
We’re dedicated and working hard to helping build that political will.
Then we can argue over where it goes.
— Charlie Quimby