Iowa: Bill Introduced to Fund Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund

Contact: Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern States Coordinator

On February 5, the Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee, in association with Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Kim Reynolds, introduced Senate Study Bill (SSB) 3116, commonly referred to as the “Invest in Iowa” Act.

Though the entire bill is part of Gov. Reynolds’ vision for tax reform in Iowa, the Invest in Iowa Act includes a 1% increase in the Iowa state sales tax. Of this, 3/8 of 1% will be dedicated to funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund (Trust), a top priority for sportsmen and other conservationists in the state. Based on recent estimates, this would result in around $170 million in dedicated funding to address conservation priorities in Iowa. 

The Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund was created by a constitutional amendment approved by Iowa voters in 2010 with more than 63% of voters approving of the Fund. Designed to provide a sustainable dedicated funding source for the benefit of Iowa’s water quality, soil productivity, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation.  Recent polls by the Iowa Water and Land Legacy (IWILL) indicate that support for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund and an associated sales tax increase remains high at nearly 70% of voters surveyed. However, the Iowa Legislature has not yet approved the sales tax increase needed to fund the Trust.

Funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund was identified as a top priority by Governor Reynolds during her Condition of the State Address on January 14th. “Funding that Trust is no small investment, but I believe it’s one we need to make. We were given this beautiful land to work but also to keep, and preserving what we’ve been given must be a responsibility of all Iowans,” said Gov. Reynolds. SSB 3116 also includes proposed changes to the original trust fund allocation formula to reflect the Governor’s prioritization of water and soil quality improvements.

The proposed 3/8 of 1% sales tax represents the latest proposed Conservation Sales Tax in the Midwest Region, joining states like Arkansas, Missouri, and Minnesota. There, state wildlife management agencies receive a portion of collected sales tax revenue as a sustainable complement to funds generated by the American System of Conservation Funding. Though there is still a long way to go before SSB 3116 is placed in front of Iowa voters for approval, there is optimism that 2020 will be the year that the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust is finally funded. 

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