Iowa legislative candidates back Natural Resources Trust Fund
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
INDEPENDENCE, Iowa — All the legislative candidates at last week’s regional Candidates Conservation Forum at Heartland Acres Event Center in Independence said they support legislation to create the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.
The legislation passed with 90 percent support during this year’s legislative session.
The proposed constitutional amendment to establish a permanent and protected source of funding dedicated to protecting water quality and natural areas and conserving agricultural soils must pass both the House and Senate in 2009 and then it will placed on the general election ballot in 2010.
Funding for natural resources and conservation would be enhanced by allocating three-eighths of one cent from sales tax revenue the next time the Legislature approves a sales tax increase. If approved by voters and funded by the Legislature, the trust fund would provide an additional $150 million annually dedicated to natural resources and conservation.
The bill, SJR 2002, grew out of two years of study by conservation, environmental, sportsmen and agriculture groups along with members of the Legislature, said Dan Cohen, director of the Buchanan County Conservation Board and a member of the advisory committee that developed the proposal.
"It doesn’t raise taxes or give voters the ability to raise the sales tax," Cohen said.
Rep. Dan Rasmussen, an Independence Republican, said the proposal to create sustainable funding for natural resources affects everyone in the state.
"Yes, it passed in the Legislature the first time, but our work is not done b a long shot," Rasmussen said. "We need to talk about this legislation all the time."
Sen. Brian Schoenjahn, an Arlington Democrat, said that as a member of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, he supported the sustainable funding proposal and will again.
"This is absolutely necessary In light of the devastation we’ve seen this year," Schoenjahn said. "We need to continue to protect our resources from catastrophic flooding."
Gene Ficken, an Independence Democrat who is running against Rasmussen, said he supports sustainable funding for natural resources.
"We have to protect our natural resources, sustainable funding is a wonderful thing," Ficken said.
Rebecca Wearmouth, an Independence Republican running against Schoenjahn, said she looks forward to supporting sustainable funding for conservation and bringing it to the people.
"We need to keep and enhance our natural resources," Wearmouth said.
Joe Childers, a Republican from Marion running for Senate District 18, said natural resources are important and he would fight for funding for them if elected.
The forum was sponsored by Pheasants Forever, Buchanan County Extension, Heartland Acres Agribition Center, the Tallgrass Prairie Center and other conservation groups in Buchanan, Benton, Black Hawk and Fayette counties.