DES MOINES – In the wake of Cedar Rapids voters’ defeat of a flood protection funding plan, a local lawmaker is calling for the Legislature to add $15 million to the fiscal 2012 budget for watershed management projects around the state.
“If we were going back to Des Moines to pass flood mitigation legislation I wouldn’t be doing this,” Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said May 6. “But with the failure of that legislation following the failure of the referendum, it’s urgent that we do something.
Linn County voters earlier this week rejected a 20-year extension of a 1-cent local option sales tax to pay for the city’s $375 million flood protection plan. The Iowa Legislature was waiting for results of the May 2 referendum before taking action on a plan to allow Cedar Rapids to retain a portion of its sales tax revenue growth to help pay for the protection.
That plan has been put on hold until the 2012 session.
Hogg realized it’s late in the game to be calling for adding $15 million to the proposed budget, but insisted “watershed management deserves a seat at the table.”
Iowans cannot continue to “bury their heads in the sand and hope it (persistent flooding) goes away,” he said at a news conference in Cedar Rapids. “We owe it ourselves and our neighbors downriver to stop the carnage and renew the investment in watershed management that is so urgently needed.”
Proposed budget reductions include a $6.5 million cut to the Resource Enhancement and Protection program (REAP), the elimination of $5 million in funding for the Watershed Improvement Review Board and additional cuts of $500,000 in Conservation Reserve Enhancement, $500,000 in Conservation Reserve, $700,000 in soil conservation cost share and $1.65 million in watershed protection funding since fiscal 2010.
The Senate Democratic budget also makes cuts to watershed management, but would provide $875,000 more for REAP than either the governor’s or House Republicans’ budgets.
Hogg wants lawmakers to add $15 million to the Senate Democratic spending target of $21,575,000 to the cuts.
It’s not a question of whether the state can afford the spending, he said. The state’s ending balances are projected to be somewhere between $150 million and $395 million. He said voters showed their support for watershed management, which includes benefits for water quality, rural economic development and habitat and recreation throughout, when they passed Iowa’s water and land legacy with 63 percent of the vote last November.
Hogg made a similar plea for watershed management funding in Friday afternoon at the Cedar River Watershed Coalition’s spring meeting at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.For more information, visit www.iowacedarbasin.org/cedar.