The good news is that Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa Republican legislators are finally waking up to Iowa’s contaminated water emergency. The bad news is their solution is too little and too late. The environmental alarm has been ringing for years but they plugged their ears and refused to act.
While they loitered, Iowa’s number of impaired water bodies grew to over 750. While they stalled, Iowa’s beaches were closed due to dangerous bacterial levels. While they made excuses, Iowa has seen the number of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) multiply and spread like the plague across Iowa without adequate local oversight. While they snored, Iowa’s rivers and lakes have become human health hazards. While they buried their heads, Iowans watched as their soil and water have been abused.
They have sat on their hands for years as Iowa’s water quality continued to deteriorate. More soil eroded from our land and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico has expanded exponentially. Now, they have suddenly awakened from their environmental siesta and decided they want an immediate cheap quick fix. The problem is, they don’t want to commit any new funding to solve this massive problem. They simply want to put some lipstick on the pig and claim they fixed it.
Their solution is basically a cosmetic shell game. They propose to steal about $12 million in sales tax dollars that Iowans already pay on their water bills as well as $15 million that will come from paying off Vision Iowa project bonds. Their solution is to shift money from one government pocket and place it in another government pocket. The total dollars available don’t change but they can claim they are devoting money to our water crisis. Their absurd solution would shift $27 million dollars from other important programs. It’s estimated this environmental disaster will require from 3 to 12 billion dollars to address. The GOP’s miserly funding plan is a drop in the bucket to the monumental need.
The Republican legislators plan to rush this quick fix through the legislature with little or no planning, accountability or public input. The Iowa GOP water bill is much like the national Trump tax scam bill. They just want to score an easy win rather than solve a problem. Reynolds has jumped on the GOP quick fix band wagon. She just wants to claim an early victory without investing any time or thought into real solutions. Reynolds is desperate to get this flawed water bill passed so she can claim it as the first bill she signs in 2018.
“I am hoping it is the first bill that I get to sign as the governor of the state of Iowa,” said Reynolds.
Sorry Republicans, you’re too late with your bogus water cleanup plan. Your proposed water bill is all show and no go. That’s not a meaningful or responsible solution to an urgent public policy emergency.
In 2006 the Iowa Legislature formed an Advisory Committee on Sustainable Natural Resource Funding. That group was tasked to recommend the best long-term, sustainable and predictable model to fund Iowa’s natural resources. Their recommendations included best practices for long-term natural resources and outdoor recreation funding. They recommended establishing a constitutionally protected trust to be funded by a 3/8 cent increase in the Iowa sales tax.
Iowans overwhelmingly (63%) voted in 2010 for a constitutional amendment to create the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. It established a permanent and protected funding source dedicated to clean water, productive agricultural soils and thriving wildlife habitats. The trust fund has sat empty since 2010 because the legislature has refused to fund it. Had it been funded seven years ago Iowa would have raised more than $1 billion to fund Iowa’s critical natural resources.
That’s one solution that Iowans have already endorsed. You can expect Democrats will continue to push to properly fund this publicly approved Trust Fund.
Currently, another broad coalition of concerned Iowans formed a task force and have been working on additional solutions. Their report provides a broad and comprehensive plan that addresses the many aspects of Iowa’s environmental damage. They’re currently working with Democrats in the legislature to introduce a range of proposals for funding, management, monitoring and accountability to finally address Iowa’s environmental emergency.
by Rick Smith