Delaware County supervisors, educators and residents came to Farm Bureau Financial Services in Manchester Feb. 7 for a legislative coffee. State Senator Dan Zumbach and State Representative Lee Hein were in attendance to discuss issues that will be affecting northeast Iowa.
One of the hot topics that sparked conversation was the one-cent sales tax that is being discussed by the state. This is a shift and not a change in taxes. A percentage of each penny would go towards a variety of different areas. Mental health, natural resources and other funds would benefit from this shift.
“We want to get some of this tax money into the schools to help with mental health,” Hein said, “but we have to work it to do so.”
“You have to look at it because these are huge changes,” Zumbach said. “There is a spider web effect. Agreeing is not what most of these people do in Des Moines, but this isn’t just a ‘let’s vote on it and move on’ thing.”
West Delaware Community School District Superintendent, Dr. Kristen Rickey, was in attendance and expressed her thoughts on what this shift would mean for schools.
“I will never turn down money for our schools,” she said, “but getting professional staff is the problem. We need the mental health system to work. The school can’t fix that.”
Zumbach agreed that mental health is more than a school issue, but he said they are still trying to figure out how to get this to work.
“There is not a magical way to do it,” he added. “How we want to divide up this pie is a huge issue.”
Another topic that was discussed with the one-cent sales tax increase is how the environment would benefit. The plan is for a portion of that tax to assist with the water quality in eastern Iowa. And while the popular belief is that water quality is not great in this area, Zumbach said otherwise.
“Our water is cleaner today than it was 10-20 years ago,” he said. “You can check with the DNR if you don’t believe me, but northeast Iowa has the cleanest rivers in the state. However, we want to keep improving the quality.”
Agriculture oftentimes gets fingers pointed at it, but Hein and Zumbach said that most of the sediment isn’t coming off the fields, it’s coming from the stream banks. They believe that farms in northeast Iowa have made changes to their techniques, and it is showing.
“It took hundreds of years to get where we stand now,” Zumbach said, “and it’s going to take hundreds of years to get better.”
Farm driving permits and weight limits on secondary roads were also discussed.