Legacy Arts Amendment

Overview & History of The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment

LegacyLogoThe Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment was the largest arts and culture amendment in American history, and represented a historic change in how states fund the arts. The story of its passage was a story about how people with wildly different interests and resources worked together for the common good. Our effort was seventeen years in the making and now Minnesota has arts funding in the state constitution for 25 years, and it can only be removed by another statewide vote of the people in another constitutional amendment, unlike other dedications which can be undone statutorily by the next legislature. Minnesota Citizens for the Arts and thousands of arts advocates from around the state played a crucial role in ensuring a robust and lasting legacy for the Minnesota we love.

Funding Mechanism: 0.375 percent sales tax increase; less than 4 cents on a $10 purchase, created through an amendment to Minnesota’s constitution.VoteYesParade

Funding Generated: $7.5 billion state-wide over a 25-year period:

  • 33 percent for clean water
  • 33 percent for wildlife habitat
  • 19.75 percent for arts and cultural resources
  • 14.25 percent for parks and trails

Language on the Ballot:
Clean Water, Wildlife, Cultural Heritage and Natural Areas

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?”

Election Outcome:

56% Yes
39% No

Campaign Overview

Three streams of political action came together to make it possible to achieve this goal:
• First, the arts community spent decades building a robust and politically sophisticated statewide grassroots network that fed into our success.
• Second, the sportsmen’s community put the idea of a constitutional amendment to dedicate resources onto the table.
• Third, the conservation community on a national level has invested resources into helping local ballot initiatives succeed through polling, training, and other assistance, all of which fed into the effort.

In addition to these important factions, there were a number of very smart and politically experienced Minnesotans who came together to run the statewide VoteYes! Campaign including all of MCA’s staff, and hundreds of volunteers.

Our campaign worked in two phases. In “Phase One,” legislative lobbying that resulted in the passage of the proposed Amendment from the legislature on to the public. In “Phase Two,” the political campaign resulted in 56% of the Minnesota public voting “YES” on the Amendment.

A Quick History

The search for dedicated funding for the arts began in 1991 when Sen. Richard Cohen convened a working group to search for a dedicated source of funding for the arts. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that the idea of dedicated revenue in a constitutional amendment was proposed by the hunters and anglers for land conservation, and in 2004, the arts were attached to the bill. Finally in 2008, after significant lobbying from MCA, the amendment passed the legislature on the same day as MCA brought over 500 people to the Capitol for Arts Advocacy Day. With a dedicated staff and well funded voter contact efforts, the “Vote Yes!” campaign worked with over thousands of non-profit organizations to pass the amendment in the 2008 election.

The Coalition

The success of the “Vote Yes!” campaign would not have occurred were it not for a strong successful coalition of arts, conservation, sportsmen, and civic groups working together to achieve a common goal. The arts community, led by MCA, tapped into a vast grassroots network to get Vote Yes! ads, banners and signs promoted by over 1400 arts organizations and events across the state. The environmental community provided expertise in fundraising and campaign message, and the sportsmen engaged local affiliates around the state through organizing and earned media.

How the Arts Led

The arts community, particularly Minnesota Citizens for the Arts (MCA), provided a vast grassroots network and visibility for the campaign and was integral to the Amendment’s success.

From playing a crucial role in the leadership of the Vote Yes! campaign on the operating and steering committees to staffing campaign offices, MCA’s staff and board raised funds, contacted voters, and organized the arts community to do the same. Across the state in 1400 arts nonprofits, Vote Yes! ads were included in programs, Vote Yes! signs and banners were in the windows of theaters and galleries, and at many events ushers wore Vote Yes! buttons. Staff and volunteers also tabled at hundreds of arts events to raise awareness, and some major arts and rock and roll festivals hung Vote Yes! banners on their stages. This was the ultimate test of the years MCA spent organizing the arts community, and the performance that the organizations and individuals across the state gave was worthy of a standing ovation.

Effects of the Amendment

Revenue from the amendment started being collected on July 1, 2009. The Legislature is in charge of deciding how to spend the new money, and their philosophy has been to give the majority of it to statewide systems that will ensure that all Minnesotans will benefit. Minnesota was already home to nation-leading arts infrastructure in the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Council system. This system ensures all Minnesotans have access to the arts, giving grants to artists and arts organizations ranging from individual artists to community organizations, to the major arts institutions. MCA continues to lobby to make sure they receive at least half of the Arts and Cultural Heritage portion of the amendment, with the rest going to Minnesota History and other cultural organizations.


Now that we have passed this historic constitutional amendment, we are working hard to ensure that the revenue is spent effectively, transparently, and in accordance with the language of the law. The law clearly states that the funds shall be used to “supplement rather than supplant” existing arts and conservation funding and in 2009, MCA successfully fought back an attempt to eliminate the MSAB and RACs in part by highlighting this language. We continue to promote transparency and accountability of amendment funds by providing highly credible analysis of budget proposals, and reporting the actions of the governor and legislature directly to the public on websites such as www.TheAmendment.org and on MCA’s website and other communications.

Legacy Partners

Conservation Minnesota and Minnesota Citizens for the Arts have formed a dynamic and uniquely strategic partnership to invite Minnesotans to “Live the Legacy” by bringing recognition to arts, local history and outdoor events funded by the Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment. We will also be doing press tours to highlight Legacy events and giving “Legacy Partners” awards to organizations and local governments who are best making use of Legacy Funds to improve the lives of Minnesotans statewide.

At MCA, we’re focused on making sure not only that the will of the voter is followed, but also that Minnesotans statewide are able to understand and enjoy the projects that they are funding through first-hand knowledge. This is the best possible way to build and affirm the connection between this historic act of the voters and the lives of generations of Minnesotans to come.

Arts Organization Access Points For Amendment Resources:

From Sheila Smith
Executive Director, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts
April 1, 2014

After our many years of work and struggle to pass the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, I am happy to report that the benefits of the amendment in terms of grants are beginning to take shape.

Because the funds have gone to multiple agencies, artists and arts organizations would be well advised to pay attention to these multiple “Access Points” for Arts and Culture Fund dollars. I have included a quick description of where each agency is in their planning process.

Minnesota’s state arts funding system includes a state agency (MSAB) that does statewide programming and grant-making, and 11 regional arts councils (RACs) which each serve a set of counties with local grants and services. They are the state’s infrastructure for supporting the arts in Minnesota. Collectively, they received funding for grants and services for 1. Arts, and Arts Access, 2. Arts Education, 3. Arts and Cultural Heritage.

In addition to some administrative money, 70% of the MSAB/RAC appropriation goes to the MSAB for statewide projects and services. After a lengthy and exhaustive set of regional meetings and public input, the MSAB has completed its plan to get grants out to Minnesota communities. The board beefed up existing programs for artists and arts organizations, and created new programs to promote arts education partnerships, to fund touring and festivals, to fund free public access to arts events, and to fund new opportunities for artists. More info at www.arts.state.mn.us.

The RACs are receiving 30% of the appropriation, and each RAC is determining independently the new programs it will create in their region based on local community input. The appropriation is split between the councils on a formula primarily driven by population but includes additional factors such as size of region. More info at  www.arts.state.mn.us/racs/index.htm.