A Republican-sponsored water quality bill passed by a wide margin in a House committee today in spite of reservations from Democrats.
The bill takes existing tax revenue, and commits it to cities trying to get pollutants out of their drinking water.
Iowans who live in cities pay a tax on metered water. The bill would direct the tax to a special fund for water treatment upgrades.
But Democrats say farm chemicals and other contaminants will still be in Iowa waterways.
“How does this proposal address nitrogen or phosphorus going into the water?” asked Rep. Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City).
“This doesn’t,” answered Rep. Peter Cownie (D-West Des Moines). “There will be other parts to this as we move forward, but this is drinking water.”
“So it’s kind of like a band-aid,” Steckman said.
“There’s no silver bullet for what we can do here,” Cownie replied, adding that the bill will improve water quality without raising taxes.
In time the bill would provide up to $28 million a year for water quality. Governor Branstad’s plan to raise as much as $4 billion for water quality over time did not advance.
Democrats call it the first substantial discussion of water quality in the House in several years.
“House Democrats are damn excited,” said Rep. Dave Jacoby (D-Coralville).
Advocates for rural water users want help to stop pollution going into their wells. Critics say the bill will take some local option sales tax money away from cities and towns.
Senate Democrats say they are evaluating proposals for water quality, including committing ending balances from the budget whenever they’re available.
“We’re not gelling on a consensus,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal.