ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota’s Legacy Funds have come under fire following the recent revelation that a professor from Michigan received a Minnesota taxpayer funded grant to develop an anti-pipeline video game.
Elizabeth LaPensée, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, received a $3,290 grant from Minnesota’s Legacy Arts and Culture Heritage Fund to develop the anti-pipeline video game “Thunderbird Strike.”
In 2008, the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment was approved, allowing the state sales tax to be increased by three-eighths of one percent. The additional revenue goes to five different funds supporting the environment and the arts. The Arts and Culture Heritage Fund, which awarded the grant to LaPensée, receives 19.75 percent of the increase in revenue from the Legacy amendment to “support arts, arts education and arts access, and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.”
Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound) is calling for “serious reform” of the Legacy Fund, saying the grant was an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds and should have never been awarded to LaPensée.
“Let’s be clear, it is a God-awful waste of funds,” Osmek told Alpha News. “The game is nothing but an eco-terrorist version of Angry Birds, and not a good one at that.”
Osmek says he has played the game, calling it a “joke.” In the 2D side-scrolling video game, the player uses a thunderbird to destroy oil pipelines and machinery. LaPensée’s primary target in the video game is the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline. The 645-mile pipeline, which supplies 55 percent of Michigan’s propane demands, was built in 1953 and stretches from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, traveling under the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes. The video game’s website calls for the pipeline to be decommissioned and provides various ways individuals can “care for the waters” in the Great Lakes.
Osmek says the Legacy Fund process needs a “drastic overhaul” to ensure the funds go towards environment-related issues in Minnesota, not out-of-state video game developers.
“The legislature appropriates money for the Legacy, but we don’t direct where the money is supposed to be spent,” Osmek said. “I think now it is time for us to be far more involved in setting better guidelines.”
Watch a promotional video for Thunderbird Strike below: