Shattered Trust: Another Senate Bill to Implement I-Will

The Iowa Senate is considering a bill (SSB3157) to implement the 3/8 cent sales tax that would fund the Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund (commonly known as I-Will). This proposal falls flat and should be reconsidered. Although we have waited a long time to implement I-Will and its 3/8 cent sales tax increase, this proposal falls short in many ways. When the Constitutional Amendment was put on the ballot and voters walked to the polling booth, voters also received a framework on how the I-Will money was going to be allocated and implemented – in Iowa code 461.31 to 461.38. This is what the voters made their decision on. The language of SSB3157 breaks that trust.

Ask your state senator to object to I-Will’s changes in SSB3157.

To find your senate member, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/senate

To find your legislators, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find

  • Our parks and recreation areas have faced serious financial challenges – deferred maintenance, fewer park rangers, and derecho and flood damage. Throughout this time, they have experienced an increased number of visits from Iowa and out-of-state visitors who love our parks. State parks need the full funding imagined by the 3/8 cent sales tax.

  • The I-Will sales tax will expire in 2051. This is contrary to what voters expected, which was a fund with no expiry date.

  • Diverting that funding to the nutrient reduction strategy, making it the top priority, misses out on some of the benefits of state parks — providing wildlife habitat, protecting threatened and endangered species, providing recreation, and providing solitude.

  • Additionally, there are no spending limits on the nutrient reduction strategy – including ensuring and verifying that funded projects actually reduce nutrients and setting quality standards for water for nutrients and ensuring standards are met in a timely manner.

  • The bill makes Economic Development responsible for rating projects that are used for recreational purposes. These projects would include parks, recreation areas and water trails. This function should remain with the Department of Natural Resources. Economic development has an entirely different purpose – promoting economic development projects in the state – and should not be put in charge of parks and recreation.

  • Improvement of a terrestrial trail will only be funded if the maintenance of the trail will come from other sources. There is no reason maintenance should be excluded from I-Will funds.

  • This bill changes the distribution of funds. The award was the result of a compromise between the various parties who benefit from the 3/8 cent I-Will sales tax. There is absolutely no reason to change these allocations.

It can be tempting to rush to spend money on I-Will programs, but we can do better. That’s why we’re asking Senators to oppose SSB3157.

Ask your state senator to oppose SSB3157.

To find your senate member, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/senate

To find your legislators, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find

Norman D. Briggs