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Other Opinion: Keep constitution off November ballot

It's possible that taking state sales tax revenues from vehicle parts and car repairs and using them exclusively for fixing highways and bridges is a good idea. It might even be a great idea for Minnesota.

But it's nowhere near a change-the-constitution idea.

Nonetheless, Minnesota state Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, is proposing a question for the November ballot, asking whether specific sales tax revenues be dedicated for road repairs.

Essentially, he wants voters to do the job he and other lawmakers were elected to do: make hard choices about how money in the state's general fund is spent.

Newman's party has been trying for years to dedicate funds for transportation but has been unable to sell enough DFLers on the idea.

An end-around now, using the constitution, is at the very least, unsavory.

Minnesota's sacred constitution deserves better than to be made a political play piece. Sadly, it's far from the first time the revered document has been the target of such perversion. Two years ago, DFLers attempted a similar move to usurp the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United ruling. Other constitutional-amendment proposals of recent years, both successful and unsuccessful, have included for elderly care, the outdoors, to eliminate a campaign finance loophole, marriage rights, and voter ID.

Constitutions are all about overall guiding principles for government. They offer big-picture, long-term framework to help make sure our rulers make sound decisions and don't trample our personal rights and liberties. Changing a constitution is a drastic and serious move never to be made lightly.

Deploying a constitutional change as a pawn for short-term political or special-interest gain is, simply put, inappropriate and demands to be rejected.

It's hard to see how the Minnesota constitution isn't being played that way here, invoked after proper channels for lawmaking didn't pan out. Critics of constitutionally dedicated transportation funding correctly point out that as much as transportation may deserve to be made a priority, dedicating funds for transportation means fewer dollars for other deserving priorities, needs like education, local government aid, health care, and more.

And already, the Association of Metropolitan School Districts is looking to follow Newman's lead with a push to dedicate the state's limited dollars for education, as Forum Communications' Don Davis reported over the weekend.

It may be a good idea — but it's nowhere near a change-the-constitution idea. Like dedicating state funds for transportation, it doesn't belong on the November ballot. Rather, it belongs with lawmakers who can be held accountable for their decisions.

-- Duluth News Tribune