A group that’s pushing the legislature and governor to raise the sales tax to put money into a trust fund for water quality and recreation projects announced the addition of more supporters today.
The Iowa Water and Land Legacy (IWILL) wants a 3/8 of a cent increase in the tax to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett announced his city is joining the coalition.
“The coalition is growing in numbers and the base of supporters is expanding,” Corbett says. “I think people have to ask the question: ‘Why is that?’ And the answer is because more and more people are coming to the realization that Iowa needs to take charge of the quality of our waterways and aquifers.” Corbett says his city has already found an approach to work on the issue through a group called the Middle Cedar Partnership.
“It one includes the farmer/landowner, two it includes the private sector. And three it includes the private sector,” Corbett says. Corbett is a former legislator, and says getting the amendment to Iowa’s Constitution passed that allows for the trust fund is not something that happens very often.
“With a super majority of voters around the state, the did amend the Constitution that created this path for success, to not just take care of the water quality challenges in our state, but to also address other environmental issues,” Corbett says. The amendment was passed six years ago, but there hasn’t been an increase in the sales tax since to fund it. Storm Lake Mayor Jon Kruse says funding is needed in the trust fund to build on what’s been done with other resources.
“As Mayor I’ve seen what these existing programs have done for our community. Over the past 15 years — lake restoration funds — one of the funds included in the trust fund formula, have improved water quality in our community,” Kruse says. He says there are many other examples of water quality programs.
“DNR funds were used to restore Little Storm Lake, various ag programs have been used in the watershed of Storm Lake to reduce soil erosion. Green infrastructure to improve storm water discharges from our city, including the recent installations of three bio-reactors on ag runoff within our city limits,” Kruse says. He says improved water quality leads to more development and growth.
“Kings Point Resort was built and draws thousands to Storm Lake each year,” according to Kruse. “Fishing in our lake is improved, other recreational activities have increased. Industry continues to grow, commercial businesses have been added — all resulting in an improved economic atmosphere in our community.” Other mayors who were named as supporters today include: Frank Cownie, Des Moines; Bob Scott, Sioux City; Jim Erb, Charles City; John Lundell, Coralville; Ed Malloy, Fairfield.
Mark Doll is the CEO of Doll Distributing which is headquartered in Des Moines and has offices in Spencer and Council Bluffs. He co-chairs the coalition and says more businesses are lending their support to the effort.
“There are many great projects across the state waiting for funding. It’s time to fund the trust so that those projects can be completed,” Doll says. Doll is a former member of the Natural Resources Commission and says the state has been doing what it can without the trust fund.
“The Department of Natural Resources has been challenged with funding…and has continued to do a fantastic job of keeping the parks open and outdoor recreation going. But we need the three-eights cents passed now,” Doll says. He says money invested in these programs is a key to the future of Iowa.
“To keep young people in the state we need trails and parks and obviously quality water,” according to Doll. “I am working now with the Iowa Brewers Guild and the home brewers across the state…and talking with them about joining our coalition.”
IWill also announced several other business leaders or businesses which have thrown their support behind the coalition. They are: John Ruan the third; C-F Industries; Pete Brownell, Brownells; Steve Shriver, Brewtopia, 2014 Corridor Business “Entrepreneur of the Year”; Environmental Law & Policy Center; Blank Park Zoo; Bill Van Orsdel, Iowa Insurance Hall of Fame; Richard Stanley, Muscatine; Joni Axel, Muscatine. The members of the coaliton made their comments during a conference call with reporters.