Health groups back Iowa sales tax for natural resources

Plan will increase physical activity

The reflection of the dome of the State Capitol building is seen in a puddle in Des Moines on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The reflection of the dome of the State Capitol building is seen in a puddle in Des Moines on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — A coalition of organizations supporting a state sales tax increase for water quality and natural resources programs has added health advocates to its growing list of supporters.

Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy announced its new supporters Thursday at a news conference in Des Moines.

Those new supporters include the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the Iowa Public Health Association.

The Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy coalition’s “plan to provide new outdoor recreation opportunities will increase physical activity and reduce Iowans’ risk for a number of health conditions, including our No. 1 killer, heart disease and stroke,” said Seth Johnson, campaign coordinator for the American Heart Association.

The coalition supports funding the state’s Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation fund, which was established by voters in 2010 but has not been funded by state lawmakers.

The fund would be filled by an increase to the state sales tax of three-eighths of 1 cent. Revenue from the sales tax would go to many natural resource and recreation projects.

Health groups new to the coalition said funding outdoor and recreation projects would lead to healthier Iowans.

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“Our organization has seen firsthand the health benefits of vibrant outdoor recreation and the importance of a safe, healthy environment for the body’s overall well-being,” said Dr. Richard Deming, founder of new coalition member Above + Beyond Cancer.

Iowa has been instructed by the federal government to remove from its waterways harmful pollutants that are flowing into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico, killing marine life there.

The state has developed a nutrient reduction strategy, but it calls for funding of $4 billion.

“The sales tax is a stable, protected way to fund the trust, address water quality and improve the health and well-being of Iowans,” said Craig Hanken, with the Iowa State Alliance of YMCAs, another new coalition member

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