Reynolds ignores voters

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

We finally have an estimate of “new” money for conservation in Gov. Kim Reynolds’s proposal to increase the sales tax by a penny: just $82 million, according to Peter Fisher and David Osterberg of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership. That’s not what citizens bargained for when more than 60% of them voted 10 years ago to amend the Iowa Constitution and allow for three-eighths of that penny sales tax increase to flow into a permanent trust fund for natural resources.

The new money, if the constitution is followed, should be closer to $200 million annually. But Reynolds wants to supplant general fund revenue for natural resources with the new sales tax revenue. That is, programs now paid by income tax revenues will be covered instead by sales tax revenues. That is not what the constitution says, as Fisher and Osterberg point out:

“Trust fund moneys shall supplement and not replace moneys appropriated by the general assembly to support the constitutional purposes provided in section 461.3.”

Reynolds wants to change the formula approved by voters in the constitution. That strikes us as illegal. At least, it does not reflect the will of the people. The governor changes the formula voters approved by shorting natural resources (parks, trails, REAP wildlife and fisheries) in favor of programs offered through the Iowa Department of Agriculture (watershed protection and local conservation partnership). She also favors lake restoration.

Maybe Reynolds has a better formula, but it was not on the ballot a decade ago. Reynolds said things have changed. A lot has changed except for the constitution. A governor, not even with the legislature, in a single session can disregard the supreme law of the state.

Iowans overwhelmingly approved of the fractional sales tax and trust fund because they want better state parks, more recreational trails and cleaner water. They recognized that Iowa at the time had the lowest per-capita appropriations for natural resources in the nation, and things haven’t improved much. A lot of conservatives voted for it (recall the same year the same electorate removed three Iowa Supreme Court justices for legalizing gay marriage). Republicans like to hunt and fish and hike just like tree huggers do. And, they like to drink clean water. The original formula reflected all that. If it isn’t the right ballot today, then let’s have another vote on the constitution. Let’s not ignore what the voters intended.

Put up the full $200 million agreed to 10 years ago. Fish or cut bait. Voters are watching and know when they’ve been ignored and betrayed. This is supposed to be the Republicans’ election-year spiff for high-rollers and the ag chemical lobby. Let the poor fund mental health services through increased sales taxes, and just ignore their vain plea for a trail to enjoy after a week in the packinghouse. It is a dangerous move that will backfire on the governor.

Inexplicable

Farmers nervously await another round of epic spring flooding as the Missouri River is about to swell from a saturated watershed. Last year, more than 90,000 acres were washed out in Southwest Iowa. The Trump Administration, meanwhile, issued a budget calling for steep cuts in the USDA and crop insurance. As we said last week, the budget is a political document and will never see the President’s signature because Democrats control the House. But the cuts to crop insurance don’t make sense. Why alienate a group that has not opposed you? But here is what the crop insurance industry said in a statement: “Last year brought unprecedented challenges for rural America. Even now, farmers and ranchers across the country are dealing with the lingering consequences of weather events that destroyed fields and ruined crops. And there looks to be no reprieve from the ongoing rural recession …

“The proposed cuts will make crop insurance unaffordable and unavailable for farmers, seriously undermining the farm safety net.

“Thankfully, for the sake of America’s farmers and ranchers, OMB’s budget is sure to be rejected by Congress.”

“Inexplicable.” That’s how the crop insurance industry explained it.

So much of the Trump presidency is.

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