The next time Gov. Dayton hints that there isn't a penny of wasteful spending in the Minnesota General Fund budget, taxpayers should throw this report in his face and ask for his thoughts on the matter:
Minnesota taxpayers paid for trips to places like Bora Bora, Costa Rica and New Zealand and all of the trips were for artists.
State records show the Minnesota Arts Board dished out 114 grants under the Artists' Initiative program between 2009 and 2013. The money went to artists who traveled to 40 countries and 20 different states. The program spent $5.6 million in that time with 15 percent of the trips overseas.
The Arts Board tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the money is not from the voter-approved Legacy Fund. The Arts Board says it comes from the state's general fund because Legacy Fund money can only be spent on projects in Minnesota. The head of the Arts Board, Sue Gens, tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the overseas trips are beneficial to taxpayers because they enhance culture, education and provide economic development. Gens says artists choose to stay and live in Minnesota rather than leave for New York City or Los Angeles.
Notice that this wasn't funded by the Legacy Act sales tax. These travels were paid out of Minnesota's General Fund.
Notice, too, the flimsy rationalization Sue Gens, the head of the Arts Board, gave. Saying this is a worthwhile expense because it enhances Minnesota culture is insulting. How many people see these artists' work from their travels?
Ms. Gens' answer sounds like a I-had-to-say-something type of answer than a legitimate justification for spending the taxpayers' money.
Defenders of this program might try rationalizing this spending by saying that this program is just a tiny percentage of Minnesota's General Fund budget, which is true. It's also irrelevant.
There's an old budgeting principle that the way to save a million dollars is by saving a dollar at a time. Further, the principle goes that the ways to save millions of dollars is by saving a million dollars at a time.
Using the justification (rationalization?) that 'it's just a tiny portion of the budget' is the way politicians waste taxpayers' money. Remember that the next time a representative for a special interest group talks about making their program whole again.