This is probably the status quo for environmental policy | New policies

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For 12 years, the people of Iowa have waited for the legislature to fund the Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, a sales tax-funded fund for clean water, productive agricultural soils and thriving wildlife habitat.

Despite the approval of 63% of voters in a 2010 referendum, the legislature has yet to vote to increase the sales tax by three-eighths of a cent to fill the trust fund. And that is unlikely to happen when the next legislative session begins next week.

“No one is in favor of a sales tax,” said Representative Robert Bacon, R-Slater, who chairs the House natural resources committee.

However, one of the goals of the Republican-led State Senate is to suppress the state income tax. If this ever happens, replacing the lost revenue with an increase in sales tax could be the subject of discussion.

“If we are phasing out income tax, I think we will need to increase sales tax. If we do, three-eighths of a cent would go to iWill, ”said Bacon, referring to Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy, a coalition working to fill the trust fund.

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Bacon doesn’t want to raise sales tax because it disproportionately hurts low-income people, but he knows many Republicans want to end income tax and return some of the 1.2 surplus. billion dollars from state to Iowans.

Soil health“I know we have to look at the quality of the soil,” he said.

Healthy soil retains more water, which reduces the risk of flooding, contains more microbes that “feed” the plants, and is less prone to erosion. Planting cover crops and reducing tillage can improve soil health and water quality.

The Iowa House last year reviewed legislation that would have added “soil health” to the list of projects that could get grants from soil and water conservation districts, but the bill is in the works. dead point.

The 2022 legislative session, which begins Monday in Des Moines, could revisit this bill or others related to soil health, said Ingrid Gronstal, director of the water program for the Iowa Environmental Council.

“There are opportunities to move the smaller pieces forward,” said Gronstal. “Soil health is something of bipartisan interest. “

State parks

Despite a record 16.6 million visits to Iowa state parks in 2020, the park system has lost rangers and state funding remains stable, IowaWatch reported.

The strength of the guards – up to 35 compared to 55 in 1995 – is now one guard for 474,286 visits to the park, up from a ratio of 1 to 217,700 in 1995.

Bacon said he would lobby for four or five other rangers.

Gronstal said she would like to see the Iowa Department of Natural Resources spend more money on enforcement, licensing and oversight to ensure animal feed operations and other businesses do not allow manure and chemicals to enter lakes, streams and groundwater.

The Iowa DNR investigated eight fish deaths through August this year and recently fined $ 270,000 for a fertilizer spill in 2020 that killed hundreds of fish and mussels in a stream near Dubuque.

Iowa has nine remaining coal-fired power plants, the main contributors to the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. The Environment Council would like the legislature to require utilities to have plans of how they will provide energy in the future.

Bacon has said utilities are urged to make long-term plans, but he doesn’t think the legislature will require it.

Renewable energy

Iowa generates 58% of its electricity from wind, the largest share of any state in the country. Some large-scale solar projects have also been built in Iowa, but there have been disputes over other projects in the future.

The Environment Council does not want lawmakers to adopt state rules for the siting of a solar project. “We wouldn’t want to see any sort of blanket ban that would make it much more difficult to build renewables in Iowa,” Johannsen said.

Bacon also favors local control over solar.


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