Kim Reynolds Pauses Invest in Iowa Act Program for the Second Time


Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | January 11, 2021

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday that she is once again pausing the Invest in Iowa Act, a proposal that would fund environmental and mental health programs, due to the effects of COVID-19 on the economy.

Reynolds originally shelved the proposal late last session after the COVID-19 pandemic first disrupted the economy. She said that the program’s one-cent sales tax increase would be ill-advised during a time of economic uncertainty, and she still holds that view. Reynolds has said that she would rather follow up on tax cuts made in 2018 so Iowans can “keep more of their hard-earned money” and cited concerns about the pandemic’s effect on employment and the economy, according to an Iowa Capital Dispatch article.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch previously reported that lawmakers from both parties have opposed the plan, so the Invest in Iowa Act is likely to stall without major revisions if Reynolds ever decides to act on it in the future. Some Republican lawmakers have discussed adjusting tax breaks to create funds for some of the work outlined in the act, but the Invest in Iowa act’s future is unclear.

Reynolds’ original Invest in Iowa proposal would have funded Iowa’s Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund and improved the state’s mental health programs, and reductions in income and property taxes would have offset the one-cent sales tax increase. Iowa voters overwhelmingly approved the trust fund in 2010 and hoped that it would help to solve Iowa’s water quality issues caused by agricultural runoff and other pollution. However, it is in desperate need of funding as the sales tax increase required to fund it has never reached the debate floor.

The Invest in Iowa plan would have created $171 million a year for water quality, outdoor recreation, and conservation projects. It also would have allowed counties to shift mental health funding from local property taxes to the sales tax. However, Reynolds did not discuss alternative sources of funding for water quality or conservation projects when she announced that she would pause the program on Thursday, and she said that she is currently looking for alternative sustainable funding for mental health services.

Weber pushes natural resource funding in letter


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The Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund would help protect Iowa’s natural resources (via Creative Commons). 

Julia Poska | January 3, 2020

Iowa Flood Center co-creator and research engineer Larry Weber began the new year with a letter to the editor in the Cedar Rapids Gazette urging Iowans to permanently fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund in 2020.

In 2010, Iowans voted to create the fund, officially amending the state constitution to create a source of permanent funding for protecting and improving the state’s natural resources and their associated benefits . The proposed 3/8 sales tax increase to create revenue for the fund, though, has still not been implemented.

“This funding would allow us to accelerate our conservation efforts to make meaningful improvements to address flooding and improve water quality,” wrote Weber, who has dedicated his career to Iowa’s water quality and quantity challenges.

“Together, we can maintain a strong agricultural economy while protecting our water and natural resources, and at the same time creating an environment where people are drawn to live, work, and recreate,” he concluded.

 

 

 

Decade-old conservation amendment may finally receive funding


Photo from Max Pixel

Tyler Chalfant | November 26th, 2019

In a 2010 referendum, Iowans approved a constitutional amendment to create the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, a permanent and protected source of funding dedicated towards conserving and improving the state’s water quality, farmland, and natural wildlife habitats, and providing opportunities for recreation. Nearly a decade later, that fund still remains empty

The fund requires a state sales tax increase of 3/8th of a cent, something the legislature never approved. Recent polling has found that 69% of Iowans support this increase, up from 63% who voted for the amendment in the first place. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver says that the funding would have to be a part of a net decrease in Iowans’ tax burden, while some Democrats are concerned that the tax is regressive, as it disproportionately places the burden of fixing environmental problems on those with low to moderate incomes who did not cause them.

Still, Governor Kim Reynolds has said she’s working on a plan to fill the fund which could be voted on during the legislative session starting in January. A one-cent increase in Iowa’s sales tax would generate an additional $547 million, $170 million of which would be directed to the Trust Fund. The constitutionally protected funding would primarily be committed to natural resources, soil, water, and watershed conservation, as well as the resource enhancement and protection program known as REAP and local conservation partnerships.

Proposed bill would fund natural resources through sales tax increase


A shot of the autumn trees at Lake Ahqabi State Park in central Iowa. (TumblingRun/Flickr)
Lake Ahqabi State Park in central Iowa during the fall. (TumblingRun/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | March 19, 2015

Earlier this week state lawmakers proposed a bill that would raise sales tax by three-eighths of a percent to help fund natural resources preservation and outdoor recreation efforts.

Money raised would go to Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund which was approved by 63 percent of Iowa voters in 2010. State Senator David Johnson (R-Ocheyedan) estimates that the bill will generate approximately $150 million each year.

The Senate Natural Resources and Environment subcommittee voted 3-0 to approve Senate File 357 which would go into effect July 1, 2016. The bill has received bipartisan support in Iowa’s democrat-controlled Senate and has also been backed by more than 85 environmental and wildlife groups. The bill will now be advanced to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

However, the proposal in its current form may meet some resistance in the republican-controlled House, according to Rep. Tom Sands (R-Wappello) who also chairs the House Ways and Means Committee.

“It would be extremely difficult for House Republicans to vote to raise fuel taxes and sales taxes in the same year. Our focus in our campaigns has always been to try to lower taxes for all Iowans,” Sands said in an interview with the Des Moines Register

The Iowa Association of County Conservation Boards outlined several potential projects the bill could fund to improve outdoor recreational activities in Iowa’s 99 counties. Additionally, the group said these projects would create “tens of thousands” of jobs to accommodate the increase in visitors at Iowa parks.

If approved, this bill would be the states first sales tax increase since 1992.