The Iowa Senate has advanced the idea of letting Iowans vote on a constitutional amendment that could dedicate new money to environmental projects. The proposal must be endorsed again by the legislature in either 2009 or 2010 before the issue would be presented to Iowa voters. Even if Iowa voters approve, the money won’t be there unless legislators vote to raise the state sales tax by three-eighths of a percent and place that money in a fund for environmental projects.
Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, supports the plan although he questions whether it’s the best method of setting aside money for the environment. "I think that that really skirts for us the obligation and the duty to make the hard decisions each year about allocating funds to our priorities," Quirmbach says. "This is certainly one of my priorities. I wish that we could fund it better this year."
Senator Paul McKinley, a Republican from Chariton, is among those who worry much of the money will be used to buy up farmland for parks and the like. "You know Iowa’s probably one of the least populous states on a per capita to acre basis in the entire nation so we have plenty of land for folks to roam around on," McKinley says.
The Senate approved the idea of a constitutional amendment creating a new state environmental protection fund on a 47 to two vote, but legislative leaders give the measure little chance of winning approval in the Iowa House.