Minnesota legislator: Give Legacy Amendment money to schools

/ 28 February 2012 / jennifer

Dennis Lien, Pioneer Press, February 28, 2012 –

The head of the House education finance committee has come up with a new source of education funding: the state’s Legacy Amendment.

State Rep. Pat Garafalo, R-Farmington, is championing a proposal to redirect 40 percent of money now supporting Legacy arts and culture to public and private school children.

Almost 20 percent of money raised annually by a constitutionally dedicated increase in the state sales tax goes into that Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Instead of giving almost all of it to competing arts and cultural organizations and purposes, Garafalo said, a portion should be spent “on programs that directly benefit children enrolled in public and nonpublic schools.”

Garafalo said he picked that level of funding because 40 percent of the state’s general fund dollars now go toward K-12 education. If the state is constitutionally committed to spending money for arts and culture, Garafalo said, “it makes sense that we spend it on our highest priority, which is education.”

With about $50 million a year going into that fund, schools would get another $20 million a year.

Several Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislators, however, challenged Garafalo in a Legacy Funding Division meeting Tuesday.

Some suggested the money would be used to prop up education funding, which has not kept pace with inflation in recent years. That could run afoul of a requirement that Legacy money be used only to supplement existing funding, not replace it, they indicated.

Representatives of arts and cultural interests supported the existing framework.

Garafalo said he has talked to Senate sponsors but isn’t sure when their proposed legislation will start moving. His bill, which asks that the change take effect in 2014, was set aside for possible inclusion later in a larger bill.

Dennis Lien can be reached at 651-228-5588.