Iowa Senate Considers Water Quality Options

Date posted - April 13, 2016

Des Moines, Iowa — It appears there may be an attempt in the Iowa Senate to try to raise the state sales tax by a fraction, to provide a “steady stream” of money for water quality initiatives.
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Democratic Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City says Iowa faces an “economic disaster” if the state’s “original infrastructure” of soil and water isn’t protected.

Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, agrees. Johnson sees an opportunity to raise the state sales tax by three-eights of a percent — IF that is coupled with some sort of income tax cut to answer those opposed to raising taxes.

Johnson says he wants to follow through after Iowa voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 that set up a state water quality fund, to be filled when the state’s sales tax gets hiked. Johnson says that despite the constitutional amendment, the legislature has not done what Iowans said they wanted them to do.

Johnson says even though the amendment was approved, the legislature still needed to approve the tax increase and fund the trust — something they haven’t done. He says other plans such as the use of gambling funds or diversion of school infrastructure tax revenues are not sustainable or constitutionally-protected.

Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock says few, if any, other Senate Republicans are joining Johnson’s stand.

On Monday night, Republicans in the HOUSE voted for a plan that takes existing taxes on water usage and the state’s casinos and diverts some of that money to water quality projects in cities and on farms. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says every approach under consideration “will create some political problems and solve others.”

The other complication is lawmakers hope to conclude the 2016 legislative session next week. Extended debate over water quality could derail that plan.

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