Republicans in the Iowa House Monday added more money to their water quality initiative, proposing to spend nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars over the next 13 years.
But experts estimate that meeting goals for nitrates in the water will cost as much as five-and-a-half billion dollars.
“We have a severe water quality issue in the state of Iowa,” said Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D-Cedar Rapids). “Especially with nitrates.”
The House GOP plan would use gambling receipts and other general tax revenue, spending 29 million dollars this year, and ramping up through 2029 to over $732 thousand.
The money would pay for farm field improvements such as buffer strips, water quality research and testing, and urban water treatment.
The proposal does not raise taxes, but diverts money away from other budget items.
“With the budget constraints we have, we’ve laid out a proposal that grows at a steady pace,” said Rep. Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford.”
“The one thing that I worry about is we're doing too little too late,” said Rep. Running-Marquardt. “Our problems are only going to grow.”
“I agree with you,” replied Grassley. “I wish we had more money to invest in water quality.”
Governor Branstad’s plan, which did not catch on, would have committed more than $4 billion in school infrastructure funds to water quality. But short-term, the House GOP plan spends more than the Governor’s proposal.
Critics say the plan uses money that’s supposed to go for state building projects.
“That will cost construction jobs,” said Chad Kleppe with Master Builders of Iowa.
Governor Branstad said he supports the House bill.
“It’s a good, significant first step,” Branstad said, though he added he still feels the issue needs a long-term solution.
“This is our top priority, water quality, and we are very hopeful that we will see action on it this year,” Branstad said.