House subcommittee hearing scheduled for SF 548
Senate File 548, which passed out of the full Iowa Senate last week, has been assigned to the House Agriculture Committee and will have a subcommittee hearing at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, in the House Lounge.
We appreciate the amendments made to the bill as it made its way through the Senate, including removing the elimination of the Iowa Income Tax Credit for the Charitable Contribution of Conservation Land, which is an important tool for private landowners that want to see their land protected. However, INHF remains registered opposed to SF 548 because it will impede water quality improvement projects and important public land acquisitions.
This bill is now very narrowly focused on one fundamental question: Should a private entity be allowed to access a low interest loan from the State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) to buy land to re-sell to public entities?
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation believes the answer is YES, conservation partners should be allowed to use this program to complete water quality and flood mitigation projects that provide a public benefit. Here’s why:
- The program works. INHF’s past use of SRF for public land projects has a proven record of water quality improvement that provides multiple benefits, including wildlife habitat, scenic beauty and increased opportunities for outdoor recreation.
- We encourage our legislators to support all water quality improvement tools. SRF loans should be available for all eligible water quality improvement projects. If Iowa wants to truly make progress on the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, the state sales tax should also be increased to fund the Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.
- The State Revolving Fund (SRF) is a low-interest loan program supported by federal funding for water quality projects. The SRF is established in the Clean Water Act to provide low-interest loans for water quality projects. The state does not use general funds to support SRF loans. The Iowa Finance Authority issues bonds to provide the required 20% match to 80% federal dollars to participate in the program. Borrowers must pay back 100% of the loan, plus costs and interest.
- The fund has the ability to finance all eligible water quality projects for the foreseeable future. Since its inception, the Iowa SRF has loaned out more than $3 billion to 600 different borrowers. In FY18, SRF funded about $14 million in such non-point source projects. Non-point projects amount to about 10% of the funding made available through the Clean Water SRF. In FY18, it was less than 6%. Use of SRF for land acquisition does not jeopardize other viable uses of the fund, which some proponents of the bill have argued.
- SRF projects are transparent to the public and must have a direct, unequivocal water quality benefit. Iowa DNR and IFA set rules and jointly administer the program and each loan is vetted by the Environmental Protection Commission. Public EPC meetings provide opportunity to submit input and comments.
House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on Senate File 548
When: Noon, Tuesday, April 2
Where: House Lounge, Iowa State Capitol
If you have questions about the bill, please contact INHF Public Policy Director Anna Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-288-1846, ext. 41.