Iowa WISE bill introduced to provide water quality funding

Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) Tuesday announced a new, revenue neutral approach to funding the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Fund, which has sat empty after 63 percent of Iowans supported the fund’s formation in the 2010 general election. The ballot measure called for the first three-eighths of any new sales tax penny be devoted to funding the trust.

The Water, Infrastructure, Soil for our Economy (WISE) water quality solution Kaufmann is introducing increases Iowa’s sales tax by three-eighths of a penny over the next three years while offsetting the increase with an adjustment to the income tax filing threshold.

“This is a sensible, balanced approach to finally combat Iowa’s pervasive water quality issues while not raising the overall tax pie for Iowans,” said Kaufmann. “Rather than revisit this issue every year with no solution, I’m going to fight for this as the permanent, reliable funding we need to address the problem that an overwhelming majority of Iowans agrees needs fixing.”

11 Republican co-sponsors have signed on to the bill: Reps. Heaton, Hinson, Bloomingdale, McKean, Zumbach, Gustafson, Baxter, Koester, Taylor, Wills and Jones.

The proposal provides a dedicated funding source for other concepts advanced in legislation this year, and the water quality bill passed by the Republican-led Iowa House in 2016. The funds will be administered through existing state programs and agencies and will not grow bureaucracy.

The bill requires a minimum 60 percent of trust fund dollars goes to proven water quality solutions outlined in Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, with annual audits by the state auditor ensuring the dollars are going to the voluntary, non-regulatory compliance. No funds can be used for eminent domain or condemning property.

“This will put Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy into overdrive,” said Kaufmann. “The need is there. The desire to fix water quality exists. This provides the funding to get the job done.”

How it works:

1)    Phases in funding for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation over 3 years with a sales tax increase of 1/8th of a cent each year.

2)    Reduces individual income taxes for all Iowans by zeroing out the lowest tax brackets proportionally to the increase in sales tax.

3)    Converts the sales tax on pressurized water into a water excise tax and creates a drinking water treatment financial assistance program for installing or upgrading drinking water infrastructure and source water protection projects. This program functions independently of the Trust Fund and is managed by the Iowa Finance Authority.

4)    Clarifies the trust fund formula (aka “Code 461”) to ensure at least 60% of the funding goes to water quality practices outlined in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy with annual reporting and audit provisions to guarantee accountability.

 

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