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Partnership eyes legislation on water quality, airport


The Greater Des Moines Partnership is calling on the Iowa Legislature to take action on water quality, landmark recreational projects such as the Central Iowa Water Trails, an angel investor tax credit, workforce development and a proposed terminal at Des Moines International Airport. 

The five key priorities for the next session, in no particular order, emerged from months of input from among the Partnership’s 6,600 regional business members, more than 360 investors and 24 affiliate chambers of commerce. The Partnership is the key economic development entity in Central Iowa, and regularly works on a wide range of issues including workforce development, inclusivity, global talent, trade, the arts and quality of life, for example. 

Topping the list of priorities for next year are:

— Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWILL). This is a proposal to raise the sales tax to provide as much as $180 million a year for outdoor recreation and conservation projects, many of them expected to help improve water quality. Gov. Kim Reynolds has been meeting with leaders of agricultural groups to hammer out a new proposal for how the money would be spent — including how much would go to farmers — and to look for ways to offset the sales tax increase with reductions elsewhere. There has been talk of raising the sales tax by 1 percentage point, and the first 3/8 of 1% by law would go to a constitutionally protected, voter-approved state fund for the outdoor recreation and conservation projects. There have been proposals to use the rest of the new revenue for mental health and education services, and to offset other taxes. The Partnership said it supports permanent funding for water quality and conservation projects, including “regionally transformative quality of life projects that can attract and retain talent.” Yes, they are talking about the Central Iowa Water Trails projects, a $100 million-plus plan to create whitewater courses, quiet canoeing areas and fishing and swimming spots across Central Iowa’s rivers. 

— Angel Investor Tax Credit. The Partnership supports an Iowa Economic Development Authority proposal to increase tax credits for entrepreneurs. 

— Airport. Another priority is supporting increased funding for Iowa airports that support economic development, including Des Moines International Airport’s proposed new terminal. That project still awaits key federal action to increase a fee on airfares that would help pay for nearly $500 million in improvements, including the terminal. 

— Workforce. The Partnership is looking for continued investment in the state’s Future Ready Iowa initiative, along with more-accessible child care options — including legislation to prevent parents from losing aid when they get a promotion or move to a higher-paying but still modest job, called the “cliff effect.” The Partnership also supports policies that make it easier for those with a criminal history to get a job

— Enhance Iowa. The proposal calls for changes in the Enhance Iowa programs to support larger recreational attractions that could help attract workers to the area.

The Partnership’s other priorities include, among many other things, alternative energy, tying education funding to a benchmark such as GDP, renovation of the State Historical Building, health care reform, transparency in setting prescription drug prices, and setting up a regional water utility in Greater Des Moines.

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