116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A plan for Cedar Rapids to use state sales tax dollars to help pay for flood protection on both sides of the Cedar River won subcommittee approval April 20 and is scheduled for full Senate Appropriations Committee discussion tomorrow.
Although interest groups represented at the meeting questioned the funding mechanism in Senate Study Bill 1209, four of five subcommittee members signed the report to move the pan forward.
Despite the concerns, Mayor Ron Corbett saw the subcommittee action as a positive.
“Passing legislation is never easy and you have many, many steps to go through,” the former Speaker of the Iowa House said. “This is a key step, very important step.”
There were concerns from a variety of interest groups about the funding Cedar Rapids flood protection.
“I see the need for state assistance,” said Victor Elias, representing the Coalition for a Better Iowa, organizations representing children, seniors, faith, human service providers, research, advocates, labor and environmental organizations. But the funding is “irresponsible.”
“This project needs to be done. It's a very good project,” added Jan Laue of the Iowa Federation Labor, who said organized labor supports investment in infrastructure. But the funding gives her “heartburn.”
They compared the plan to one the Legislature approved to benefit the Newton racetrack.
“You're opening a can of worms” that might lead to diverting more state sales tax revenue for local projects, Laue said.“I don't think it opens up any can of worms. This is a solution for a challenge we have,” Corbett said. “It's a public infrastructure project that will require state funding.”
A spokeswoman from the Iowa Department of Revenue told the subcommittee the funding is not the same as the plan approved for Newton. In that case, she said, Newton was allowed to retain a portion of the sales tax collected at the racetrack there.
SSB 1209 would allow Cedar Rapids to keep a portion of the growth in sales taxes above the $180 million a year Cedar Rapids-Linn County now generates for the state.
Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said the proposal calls for the state to invest funds in communities that have the potential to growth and generate more state revenue.
The need for flood recovery and protection is real, said Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls. “I hope there is no question, no discussion, about the need.”
Sen. Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, who did not sign the subcommittee report, predicted state assistance to Cedar Rapids would result in new jobs, a larger tax base and “a substantially larger amount of growth” that will, in the long run, benefit all of Iowa.