Voters in Minnesota will be asked to keep providing revenue from state-operated lotteries to the Environment and Natural Resources Fund through 2050. The dedicated revenue source is set to expire at the end of 2024.
The constitutional amendment will appear on the ballot at the general election on Nov. 5, 2024. It’s the first measure certified for the statewide ballot in Minnesota since 2016.
In 1988, more than 80% of voters approved a constitutional amendment to create the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Fund. The amendment did not include a dedicated source of revenue. Also in 1988, voters approved an amendment to allow for state-operated lotteries. In 1990, the Legislature asked voters to dedicate at least 40% of revenue from state-operated lotteries to the Environment and Natural Resources Fund until 2001. The amendment was approved. In 1998, voters approved an extension, requiring the revenue dedication until 2025.
In 2024, voters will decide whether to continue dedicating revenue from state-operated lotteries to the fund through 2050. The ballot measure would also increase the amount of money that can be spent from the fund each year from 5.5% to 7.0% of the fund’s market value. The legislation that placed the constitutional change on the ballot also included changes to Minnesota Statutes. One of these changes would create a grant program to provide funding for projects related to addressing environmental issues in affected communities, environmental education, and natural resource conservation. An advisory board would make recommendations about grants, and the commissioner of natural resources would award the grants.
In the Legislature, the final version of the ballot measure was approved on May 21, 2023. In the Senate, the vote was 36-29. In the House, the vote was 89-41. Legislative Democrats supported the amendment. Legislative Republicans voted 2-29 in the Senate and 20-41 in the House.
Organizations that supported the amendment in the Legislature include the American Sportfishing Association, Association of Minnesota Counties, Ducks Unlimited, League of Women Voters, and The Nature Conservancy, among others. Their statement said, “We believe that Minnesotans deserve the opportunity to vote to renew the constitutional dedication of lottery proceeds to the ENRTF while dedicating additional lottery proceeds to the environment and reducing barriers for local organizations and communities to receive funding.”
Sen. Steve Drazkowski (R-20), who voted against the amendment in the Legislature, disagreed with how the new grants would be issued, saying, “So what we are doing is we are doing it again, we are doing what we have done in this Legislature for the last four months. Again, taking authority for appropriation from the legislative branch, and giving it to the executive branch, that’s what this bill is doing.”
Since 1996, voters have decided on 10 constitutional amendments in Minnesota. Eight of those amendments were approved, and two were defeated. In Minnesota, a constitutional amendment must receive a simple majority of all ballots cast in the election, rather than a simple majority of votes on the amendment itself.