Senate 48 challengers agree on need for water quality improvement, but not funding

Scott Peterson, Brian Cook participate in League of Women Voters forum

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CENTRAL CITY — A pair of challengers in a rural Eastern Iowa legislative district called for more effort to improve water quality and reduce flood threats, but disagreed on how to pay for those efforts.

Improving water quality in Iowa lakes and rivers will require “pretty substantial funding,” Democrat Scott Peterson of Mount Vernon said at a League of Women Voters forum in Central City on Monday night.

He called for lawmakers to enact a sales tax increase that would direct three-eighths of 1 percent toward a state Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Libertarian Brian Cook of Manchester called for a more robust water quality improvement effort involving farmers, including the possibility of tax abatement for landowners who take steps to protect soil and water.

However, he would not support a sales tax increase unless state taxes were reformed to reduce reliance on income and property taxes.

In approving the Iowa Water and Land Legacy in 2010, Iowa voters directed the Legislature to put three-eighths of a cent of any future sales tax increase into a natural resources trust.

Cook and Peterson are challenging state Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, who chose not to participate in the forum, citing harvest commitments. The first-term lawmaker is a lifelong Ryan area farmer who has served on the West Delaware school board, Delaware County Fair Board, and several terms on the church council. He and his wife, Michelle, have four children.

Peterson practices law in his hometown of Mount Vernon where he has been mayor and a city council member. He’s also served as city attorney for four communities. Peterson’s a veteran of the Navy and the Iowa Army National Guard. He and his wife, Susan, have two sons.

Cook, who grew up on a farm near Central City, worked as editor of the Manchester Press and has been a volunteer in the West Delaware schools. He has two daughters.

Republicans have a voter registration advantage in Senate 48, which covers all of Delaware County as well as parts of Linn, Buchanan and Jones counties. According to the Secretary of State Office, there are 12,727 active Republicans, 10,539 Democrats and 15,676 no party or others.

The challengers both opposed Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposal to use some revenue from a school sales tax to fund water improvement efforts in exchange for extending the life of that sales tax. Peterson called it a “disservice to schools, especially smaller schools.”

“It’s another case of Branstad shuffling the money around and holding education hostage,” Cook said.

He also split with Peterson on raising the minimum wage, with Peterson calling for hiking it to at least $10 an hour.

“There is a point of diminishing return, but we’re so far behind that we need to catch up,” Peterson said.

“I can see why people want to raise it, but it’s not the government’s place to do it,” according to Cook, who said he believes in capitalism “in its purist form.”

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