For the 7th year in a row, on Monday, February 10th, Iowan’s poured into the State Capitol to, once again, express their desire for the state legislature to fund the Iowa Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, by raising the state’s sale tax. Whenever the sales tax is raised the Iowa State Constitution requires 3/8 of one cent to be deposited into the trust fund. Annual trust fund revenues are estimated to be $1.8 million. Several Clayton County CAN members joined the group of 100+ Iowa Water and Land Legacy/ Fund the Trust advocates.
Meetings with Clayton County State Senator Mike Breitbach and Clayton County Representatives Michael Bergan and Kristi Hager yielded mixed results. Rep Hager supports funding the Iowa Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, while Rep Bergan is still undecided. Senator Breitbach remains unchanged in his resolve to not fund the trust.
Breitbach is quick to point out, as an Iowa voter in 2010, he joined the majority (63%) of Iowans in voting to amend the State’s constitution by establishing the constitutionally protected Iowa Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. However, while the ballot amendment clearly stated, “a constitutional amendment to create the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, a permanent and protected funding source dedicated to clean water, productive agricultural soils and thriving wildlife habitats,” Bretibach believes and he and Iowans were misled as to the intent of the amendment. Beyond that he opposes the allocation formula because too much of the plan (10%) goes to trails and he believes the DNR will use the funds for land acquisition. He would like to see more of the trust fund revenue dedicated to water quality. But, according to the predicted funding formula, conceivably all of the Trust Fund’s revenue, except 10% earmarked for trails, would be dedicated to enhancing and protecting the states natural resources, primarily water.
When directly asked if he would support a small increase in Iowa’s sales tax to fund the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Trust Fund, Mr. Breitbach said, “I am a no (vote).” When confronted with the Des Moines Register’s recent poll results, indicating 67% of Iowan’s support raising sales tax to protect Natural Resources, he questioned the validity of the sample size of 801 respondents. For the record the Register qualifies the survey results with this statement: “Questions based on the sample of 801 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.”
When further confronted by the contingency standing before him pleading for his support to raise sales tax in order to fund the trust he stood firmly opposed due to his understanding of the funding formula. He did not have a pulse for whether or not there was any opposition within his district to funding the trust.
It is also important to report the scientific poll conducted by the IWILL Coalition found statewide support for funding the Trust through the 3/8 cent sales tax grew from 63 percent in 2013 to 66 percent in 2014 to 69 percent in the November 2017 survey. Support has grown across all groups of Iowa voters, as the survey indicates a majority of Iowa voters who identify as conservative Republicans support a sales tax increase. Other key demographics registering overwhelming support for the 3/8 cent increase include 83 percent of suburban Iowa voters, 73 percent of women voters, 71 percent of voters aged 65 or older, and 75 percent of voters aged 18-34.
Contrastingly, in 2016, after a relatively short period of debate, Senator Breitbach voted with the majority to raise the state fuel tax 10cents/gal. Many polls found huge majorities of Iowans against what amounted to be a 45% increase in one tax.
The public Farm Bureau Legislative Forum is Saturday Feb 17, 2018 9-10 am at the Arlington Community Center, Senator Breitbach Bergan should be attending, creating a good opportunity for constituents to reinforce their Fund the Trust support. In addition, a town hall meeting in Decorah, is set for Saturday, Feb. 17 City Council Building 11:15 AM. Representatives Hager and Bergan and Senator Breitbach should be attendance.