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.
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.
“It’s a big old problem and to solve it we need new resources,” says Bolkcom, who is chairman of the Senate’s tax policy committee.
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.
“Being a conservative means conserving,” Johnson says. “…The Republican Party needs a strong environmental message.”
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.
Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock says few, if any, other Senate Republicans are joining Johnson’s stand.
“There’s less support for a sales tax increase to address this issue than just about any other proposal,” Dix says.
On Monday night, Republicans in the Iowa 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 Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says every approach under consideration “will create some political problems and solve others.”
“There are multiple opinions and consensus seems difficult right now,” Gronstal says.
The other complication is lawmakers hope to conclude the 2016 legislative session next week. Extended debate over water quality could derail that plan.