‘WISE’ bill introduced to address water quality issues

DES MOINES — One dozen of the 57 Republicans in the Iowa House have signed onto a bill that would incrementally raise the state sales tax by fractions, to raise money for water quality initiatives. Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, is the proposal’s lead sponsor. “We’re calling it the WISE Bill,” Kaufmann says, “the Water, Infrastructure and Soil for our Economy Bill.” The bill would raise the sales tax by one-eighth of a percent in each of the next three years. By that third year, it would raise 180-million dollars annually. Kaufmann says that 180 million could replace other state tax money being spent on water quality projects — and he’s suggesting income taxes for low-income Iowans could be reduced as a result. “Republicans sometimes get accused of not being pro-environment, of not being pro-water quality,” Kaufmann says. “Well, this is our way of taking that bull by the horns and putting forth a good, tax-neutral water quality bill that puts guarantees in it that we can make sure dollars go to water quality.” Representative Ashley Hinson, a Republican from Cedar Rapids, says voters told her last year water quality is a quality of life issue. “People move to Linn County because they want to have it all,” Hinson says. “They want to be able to have a job, have a family and then have the place to play, too, so water quality is imperative.” Representative Andy McKean, a Republican from Anamosa who is another co-sponsor of the bill, says it’s crafted in the tradition of former Republican President Teddy Roosevelt who founded the National Park system. “I think it’s high time that Republicans start taking the lead on some of these environmental and conservation issues,” McKean says. There’s another water quality improvement package already moving through the legislature. Governor Branstad has expressed support for its contents — and Branstad has said he’s not interested in raising the sales tax to expand the state’s water quality efforts.

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