In 2010, a supermajority (62 percent) of Iowans voted for a constitutional amendment to create the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. This fund provides a sustainable funding source to protect our productive soils, improve our water quality, enhance wildlife habitat and offer outdoor recreation opportunities throughout Iowa.
Funding for the trust fund would come from the next 3/8’s of any penny increase in the Iowa sales tax. A spending formula for the trust is spelled out in Chapter 461 of the Iowa Code. This formula was recommended by a broad base of stakeholders that included legislators, Farm Bureau, Iowa Department of Agriculture, Iowa DNR and numerous nongovernmental organizations.
Up to two-thirds of the funding allocated in this formula would be available for voluntary, nonregulatory, private land conservation projects outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The majority of trust fund dollars are designed for water quality improvement projects including lake restoration, wildlife habitat projects, water protection and enhancing flood protection efforts. An Iowa State University report estimated Iowa will need to spend up to $4 billion to meet the goals of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and clean up our waterways.
The water quality funding bill signed recently by Gov. Kim Reynolds will provide $4 million for water quality projects the first year and up to $30 million a year until 2029. The Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund would provide far more for far longer.
The trust fund and its formula provides the long-term funding necessary to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The trust fund would also fund quality-of-life components like trails and access to public land. In Iowa, outdoor recreation generates $8.7 billion in consumer spending and $694 million in state and local tax revenue. The trust fund has the potential to be an economic development tool that will help provide attractive jobs to keep young Iowans from leaving our state.
Today, the trust fund sits empty because the sales tax has not been raised. A poll conducted in November found 83 percent of Iowans support the trust fund, and 69 percent supported increasing the sales tax by 3/8 of a cent to fund the trust fund. Recently, the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found 67 percent of Iowans would favor raising the sales tax a full penny to fund water quality and mental health initiatives.
Iowa needs a long-term funding source to address our water quality issues and provide the quality-of-life opportunities that will encourage young Iowans to raise their families in Iowa. I urge our local representatives to the Iowa General Assembly to raise the Iowa sales tax and fund the trust!
To learn more about the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust go to www.iowaswaterandlandlegacy.org