Iowa's governor wants to kill two birds with one stone.
Gov. Terry Branstad says by extending a sales tax increase enacted in 2008* to 2049, schools will get an additional $10 million annually for things like technology and infrastructure projects. He projects that the state will also raise nearly $4.7 billion in this period to address soil and water conservation issues related to agriculture.
"This would be an extraordinary investment and have a huge impact. It would allow Iowa to fund the evidence-based initiatives laid out in the nutrient reduction strategy over the long term with a dedicated funding source," says Branstad. "This is the biggest and boldest initiative probably I've ever put together in all my years as governor."
Currently all proceeds from the increase, which bumped Iowa sales tax from five to six percent, are funneled Iowa schools. The tax is scheduled to expire in 2029, though school funding advocates have lobbied to extend it.
“We’re just grateful that they’re talking about extending the penny," says Margaret Buckton, who lobbies for both the Urban Education Network and the Rural School Advocates of Iowa. "Of course schools would like to have all the money stay in the area of education, but current law has this setting in 2029.”
The Iowa Association of School Boards agrees that extending the tax is a good thing for K-12 education, but says the governor's plan creates a loss of $400 million in potential revenue from FY 2017 to FY 2029.
In conjunction with Branstad's proposal, USDA Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, announced an additional $175 million in rental payments over the next decade to Iowa farmers in exchange for them taking environmentally sensitive land out of production.
*An earlier version of this story erroneously stated the tax was enacted in 2009, not 2008.