ISA voices support of governor’s bill03/11/2020 | Water Quality, Policy, Economics
By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer
The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) supports Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ Invest in Iowa Act and the opportunities it would provide Iowans, ISA at-large director Lindsay Greiner told members of a Senate Ways and Means subcommittee last week.
If passed, the Invest in Iowa Act would provide additional funding for water quality and conservation and outdoor recreation efforts under the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust, which was created by Iowa voters (or the people of Iowa) 10 years ago. An estimated $100 million, or 58% of the Trust Fund will go toward water quality. This is a 31% increase in funding. Reynolds said $52 million will be used for other conservation and outdoor recreation efforts, representing an increase of 14.6% of current funding.
The proposed bill is an opportunity to scale up water quality and conservation efforts in the state, Greiner said. He was one of several who spoke in support of the bill.
“It’s important for farmers and for all Iowans to have good soils and clean drinking water,” said Greiner, an ISA past president and farmer near Keota. “I think this bill provides a lot of benefits.”
The Act would provide additional funding for mental health while also cutting taxes, according to the proposal.
Investing in mental health
Reynolds’ proposal would invest more than $80 million in state appropriations toward the mental health system to create more stability for regions and counties, according to the plan. She said the state investment would be coupled with a statewide mental health levy cap reduction to reduce property tax burdens.
Matt Steinfeldt, a policy adviser for the Iowa Farm Bureau, said its members were undecided about whether or not to support the governor’s proposed bill in part due to the mental health funding formula suggested.
He said Iowa is one of the only states in the nation that funds mental health through property taxes. Doing so, he said, “creates inequities for taxpayers.”
“We encourage legislators to take this opportunity to make mental health a priority in the state budget and completely remove mental health from the backs of state property taxpayers,” Steinfeldt said. “Doing so will not only achieve an equitable funding source for Iowa’s mental health system, but will also achieve dollar-for-dollar property tax relief for Iowa’s property taxpayers.”
Peggy Huppert, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Iowa chapter, said rising property taxes aren’t because of the mental health property tax, which, she said, have been frozen at 1996 levels.
And, she said, rural Iowans should support efforts to fund a robust mental health system.
“The farmer-suicide rate is at an all-time high and has been since 2016,” Huppert said. “It continues to rise every year.”
“We are in a rural mental health crisis not only in Iowa—it’s national—but it’s really concentrated in Iowa because of the stresses farmers have seen over the past few years with flooding and profits,” she said.
Investing in future generations
Greiner said the Invest in Iowa Act would help retain the next generation of Iowans in the state. He and wife Shelley’s three sons live within 40 miles of the family’s farm.
“They chose to live in Iowa, and I think this proposed legislation is an investment in the future of Iowa,” he said. “We can keep our young people here to raise their families.”
Contact Bethany Baratta at email@example.com.
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