A bipartisan panel of state lawmakers that has been looking for more money to fund recreation and natural resources programs wants to give the residents of the state a chance to vote on a tax for the funding. State representative Paul Bell, a Democrat from Newton, is co-chair of the "Sustainable Funding for Natural Resources Study Committee.
Bell says the committee voted unanimously on the idea for the funding. He says they would dedicate a three-eighths of cent tax to a sustainable fund they hope will draw down 150-million dollars to fund the programs the group’s advisory board has come up with over the last two year. Bell says it would include, water, lakes, REAP and other environmental programs. Bell says the account would be protected by a Constitutional Amendment and make up for what has been a continued shortfall in funding.
Bell says the funding from the state has continued to go down, and the "environmental issues" have increased. "We’ve not had any maintenance in our parks, our lakes are getting silted in and the restoration of lakes is very expensive," Bell says, "the water quality needs cleaned up, our air quality also. It’s just that we’ve neglected a lot of things in our environment over the years, and now it’s come to pay." Bell says the idea still faces several hurdles.
Bell says the issue would have to pass to sessions of the Legislature and then go before the people of the state in a referendum. If passed, Bell says the money would be protected from anyone trying take it for other programs. Bell admits getting a tax increase to pass is not easy, but believes Iowans might vote for this issue because the money would be targeted.
"I think a lot of people, unlike maybe the gasoline tax and other taxes that people are against, when they start thinking about the environment, the air they breath, the water they drink, the lakes they fish in, the lakes they have their boating in, whatever it may me, their lakes, their trails, I think they may take a bigger interest in that and may be willing to pay for that, " Bell explains. the plan will now go to the full legislature, where its fate is uncertain.