Governor vows to keep Invest in Iowa Act intact

By: - February 21, 2020 3:11 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds answers questions from a panel of journalists on Iowa PBS’ show “Iowa Press,” on Feb. 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Iowa PBS.)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds plans to continue pushing for her Invest in Iowa Act rather than split it into pieces amid comments from key lawmakers that the combination of a sales tax increase and property tax cuts will be hard to pass. 

In an interview with Iowa Capital Dispatch Friday following her appearance at the recording of this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS, Reynolds said she wants to avoid breaking the complex bill into pieces. Her proposal is to raise the sales tax to pay for water quality, conservation and outdoor recreation, while shifting mental health services from county budgets to the state’s to allow property tax cuts. Part of the goal is to improve Iowa’s tax climate, which Reynolds called “uncompetitive.”

In an interview Thursday, House Speaker Pat Grassley said GOP lawmakers have spent a lot of time in private meetings hashing over the many details of Reynolds’ bill. “This is a significant package with multiple moving parts,” Grassley said. “You have an overarching issue of, ‘Is there willingness within the Legislature to address the tax base?’ At this point, I think we have to continue to have those conversations. It’s very important for House Republicans to find a way to provide some funding for mental health.” 

Reynolds said she’s unwilling to look at the mental health piece separately, if the concerns with the overall sales tax plan end up bogging down the legislation. 

“I’m going to focus on keeping it together right now,” Reynolds said in an interview. “As I talk to Iowans around the state, they are just very excited about it. They think it’s bold and a big initiative, they think it’s generational, and they think it will make a difference.”

Some of the money would go to water trails, including proposed whitewater courses in Des Moines and elsewhere, and to stem water pollution that not only affects Iowa’s tap water treatment and swimming areas but disrupts the major shrimping areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s early on, we just made it through the first funnel, and so we’re working with legislators and stakeholders and those conversations are going well,” Reynolds said in an interview. 

Here’s a look at other topics Reynolds addressed Friday:

Local control: The governor said she is OK with the state offering counties local control of where wind turbines go, but denying them power over the siting of large-scale hog confinements.
“It seems to be working,” the governor said of the local control of wind turbines. Environmental groups for decades have asked for similar local control of livestock confinements, to no avail, through both GOP and Democratic administrations.

Water quality: Reynolds stood by her plan to rely on voluntary conservation efforts to clean Iowa’s waterways, even as Iowa State University scientists suggest it will take decades to make a significant difference at the current rate farmers are installing conservation practices. The governor said the $100 million for water quality, which would include both existing appropriations and new sales tax money, would help. 

Education: Lawmakers should provide approximately $100 million in added spending on education, “and I don’t care how they get there.”

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil: Reynolds vetoed a bill last year from her own party because it would have allowed a level of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, at levels beyond what a state panel recommended. Reynolds said the same state panel has suggested a compromise, which she supports, that would allow higher levels for patients whose doctors prescribed them, and provide terminally ill patients with a waiver from the limit.

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