Governor's water quality proposal raises concerns
on Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Water and Land News
Katy Heggen, Iowa Environmental Council
office: 515-244-1194 x 210
Governor’s water quality proposal raises concerns
January 12, 2016 (DES MOINES, IA) – Last week, Gov. Branstad announced a proposal under consideration that would divert a portion of funds from Iowa’s existing one-percent sales tax from school infrastructure improvements to water quality initiatives. The proposal would also extend the tax, which generates more than $400 million annually, by 20 years from 2029 to 2049. Today, the Governor confirmed the inclusion of that plan in his proposed FY2017 budget.
The Iowa Environmental Council issued the following statement in response to the Governor’s proposal:
“While we appreciate that Gov. Branstad recognizes the need for significant long-term, sustainable funding for water quality – as well as education infrastructure – we have serious concerns about the Governor’s plan. Per the details currently available, among our chief concerns is the diversion itself, the precedent it sets, and how funds would be allocated. For these reasons, the Council will continue to advocate for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund – a dedicated, constitutionally-protected funding stream with an established allocation formula to support Iowa’s diverse natural resources.”
Funding for both education and natural resources – including water quality – improves Iowa’s economy, communities, health and quality of life. Each would benefit from its own independent funding stream. We are wary of legislation that would divert money from one well-deserved source to another.
We also question the precedent this sets for future diversions of this and other dedicated funding sources. SAVE was created and approved to fund school infrastructure needs, and benefits Iowa communities across the state. While the plan under consideration extends the tax 20 years and “guarantees” schools all the SAVE funds they currently receive plus an additional $10 million per year, it sets a dangerous precedent that could lay the foundation for additional changes in the future.
In its current state, SAVE provides a dedicated funding source for education infrastructure. Such a fund – and formula guaranteeing the allocation of those funds – already exists to support our natural resources. However, despite strong constituent support, it has yet to be implemented. An overwhelmingly majority of Iowa voters – 63 percent – supported the creation of the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund in 2010, and polls show support has been growing. The Trust, which provides permanent, constitutionally protected funding for conserving and enhancing water quality and natural areas in Iowa, including agricultural soils, fish and wildlife habitat, parks and trails, would generate an estimated $150 annually.
The Council will advocate for funding the Trust during the 2016 Iowa Legislative Session.
The Iowa Environmental Council is an alliance of diverse organizations and individuals working together to protect Iowa's natural environment. Since 1995, the Council has worked toward creating a safe, healthy environment and sustainable future for Iowa, focusing on water and land stewardship, clean energy and climate.
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