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Drops in the Drops in the Bucket

Even Rare Boosts in Water Funding Evaporate with Inflation
IFP Backgrounder
Backgrounder (2-pg PDF) June 26, 2012


Iowa’s waterways have long been plagued by high levels of nutrients, sediments and other contaminants. While legislators and other elected officials will always proclaim their commitment to clean water, they have not over the past decade demonstrated that commitment through the state budget. In fact, once inflation is taken into account, funding for many programs the state relies upon to monitor, protect and improve waterways has dropped by 25 percent or more.[1] The 2012 legislative session wrapped up with no major breakthroughs in funding for improving Iowa’s waters, but some modest gains were made relative to FY2012.

A March 2012 report from the Iowa Policy Project, Drops in the Bucket: The Erosion of Iowa Water Quality Funding, showed that at a minimum, the state Legislature would have to restore $5 million in state water quality funding just to move to what it had been during the previous decade. This recap illustrates that not only did lawmakers choose not to take significant steps to address that gap, but they chose — on balance — to let these important services keep losing ground.

Of programs examined in that report, both the Agricultural Drainage Well Closure program and the Soil Conservation Cost Share saw increases in funding over FY12 levels. The drainage well closure program had been receiving money exclusively from the Environment First Fund (EFF) and in FY12 it received no appropriations. For FY13 the EFF dollars returned to the modest level seen in the first half of this decade (if inflation is ignored), and an additional $1 million was appropriated through the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF). Without that additional money from the RIIF the drainage well closure program would have been near its lowest funding level of any year in the past decade. Meanwhile the Soil Conservation Cost Share line item saw an increase of $350,000 over FY12, but the total is still less than it had seen a few years before.

The other program line items IPP examined remained the same and can be seen in Table 1 below. Once again, taking inflation into account, all of these programs that help improve Iowa’s water quality are not keeping up. Over time, this slow erosion in the purchasing power of these programs is likely to contribute to deteriorating Iowa water quality, if it has not already done so. When funding is scaled to FY13 appropriations, the slow decline in spending on water programs becomes more evident. See Figure 1, where FY13 appropriations equal “100” on the scale.

It should also be noted that the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program, which also uses EFF dollars, was under attack in this past session. Proposals were made to sell off state lands to fund the program instead of using the gaming receipts that fund the EFF but in the end the FY13 budget includes $12 million for the REAP program as it did in FY12. This remains far short of the $20 million authorized for the program, though. It has never been fully funded.

Table 1. Funding for Iowa Water Quality Programs Falls (FY2012 dollars)

 

CREP*

CRP**

Watershed Protection Fund

Soil Conservation Cost Share

Ag Drainage Well Closure

REAP (soil and water only)

GIS Info for Watersheds

Water Quality Monitoring

Water Quality Protection

FY02

 

$1,642

$3,225

$10,596

$728

$1,975

$284

$3,495

$0

FY03

$2,107

$0

$3,792

$4,916

$0

$459

$0

$3,659

$702

FY04

$2,039

$2,718

$3,670

$7,475

$680

$2,866

$265

$4,016

$680

FY05

$1,930

$2,574

$3,474

$7,077

$643

$2,713

$251

$3,802

$643

FY06

$1,818

$2,423

$3,272

$6,664

$606

$2,555

$236

$3,581

$606

FY07

$1,730

$2,307

$3,115

$6,345

$577

$2,433

$225

$3,409

$577

FY08

$1,632

$1,632

$2,775

$7,617

$1,610

$3,264

$212

$3,215

$544

FY09

$1,589

$1,589

$2,701

$7,414

$1,589

$3,701

$207

$3,130

$530

FY10

$1,580

$1,580

$2,686

$7,372

$1,580

$3,681

$205

$3,112

$527

FY11

$1,538

$1,333

$1,538

$1,077

$1,282

$2,974

$180

$3,030

$513

FY12

$1,000

$1,000

$900

$6,300

$0

$2,307

$195

$2,955

$500

FY13

$1,000

$1,000

$900

$6,650

$550*

$2,307

$195

$2,955

$500

Note: All figures in 1,000s of dollars — all but FY13 in FY2012 dollars. The FY13 funding for Ag Drainage and Well Closure listed here does not include an additional $1 million for FY13 from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.
*Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. **Conservation Reserve Program.

 

Figure 1. FY2013 Decline in Iowa Water Quality Appropriations Relative to Last Decade

Table 1. Funding for Iowa Water Quality Programs Falls (FY2012 dollars), Figure 1. FY2013 Decline in Iowa Water Quality Appropriations Relative to Last Decade

All dollar values are adjusted to 2012 dollars except FY13 which remain unadjusted. Inflation adjustments were made using the Bureau of Economic Analysis Price Indexes for Government Consumption and Gross Investment (May 31, 2012, dataset)

All dollar values are adjusted to 2012 dollars except FY13 which remain unadjusted. Inflation adjustments were made using the Bureau of Economic Analysis Price Indexes for Government Consumption and Gross Investment (May 31, 2012, dataset)

[1] IPP report, Drops in the Bucket: The Erosion of Iowa Water Quality Funding. 2012. Available at http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/2012Research/120301-water.html

The Iowa Fiscal Partnership is a joint budget and tax policy initiative of two nonpartisan, Iowa-based organizations, the Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City and the Child & Family Policy Center in Des Moines. Find IFP on the web at www.iowafiscal.org.


 
A joint effort of the Iowa Policy Project and the Child & Family Policy Center (logos).