IA Capital at noght

DES MOINES — Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig is excited about the possibilities in the next fiscal year, but it may be a while before he knows exactly what might happen.

The reason is that Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed a number of dramatic changes for the coming year, and many of those changes could impact the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Reynolds, a Republican like Naig, laid out her proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 (the year that starts on July 1 and ends on June 30, 2021) during her condition of the state speech on Jan. 14. That proposal included raising the state’s sales tax by a penny — offsetting that by cutting income taxes — and using some of the money to pay for mental health care, allowing for some property tax reductions. But 3/8 of that cent would go toward water quality and natural resources programs under the Department of Agriculture.

“She laid out a bold agenda,” Naig says.

That’s a good thing, he says, although it also presents him with the likelihood he won’t know until late in the session whether he will be dealing with a big influx of money. There are a lot of moving parts in the governor’s proposal.

But Naig is OK with that situation because the possibilities are exciting.

“We’re working through the details,” he says. “We’re looking at the formula.”

That formula is for how the 3/8 cent is spent. When voters amended the state constitution in 2010, the proposal said if the sales tax were to be increased, the first 3/8 cent would go toward a natural resources fund. The legislature put in place a formula for how that money would be spent. But the governor and lawmakers, as part of her new proposal, want to change that formula to channel more money toward water quality efforts and less toward parks and trails.

Naig says the department is already working to ramp up spending on water quality programs because Senate File 512, passed two years ago, increases that funding. It gave $2 million for the last fiscal year and $4 million for the present fiscal year and is scheduled to go up to $15 million next fiscal year. If the Reynolds plan goes into place, that $15 million figure would grow even more.

Meanwhile, Naig says the governor also is asking for $2 million more to go into the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure fund. That money would go toward blender tanks and other infrastructure items to boost biofuel usage in the state.

Naig is also hoping to get more funding to deal with animal disease issues in the state. Some of that new funding, if approved, would go toward IT needs and other infrastructure items aimed at animal disease issues.

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Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.