Grassley touts water quality, budget shortfall as top priorities

Robert Maharry

Twelve years in, Pat Grassley still gets that old time feeling when he enters the chambers of the statehouse for the opening of a new legislative session, and throughout this go round, he’ll have no shortage of work to do.
“I tell everybody that it’s kind of like going back to school. Everybody’s got their new suit on and a new haircut,” the state representative from rural New Hartford said. “It’s always good to get back here.”
Fresh off of one of the most productive—and contentious—sessions in recent memory, Grassley and his Republican colleagues are still setting ambitious goals for 2018, including tackling water quality, untangling the mess of privatized Medicaid and adjusting the budget to compensate for about $37 million in lost revenues. As Governor Kim Reynolds prepared to deliver her annual Condition of the State address to the House and Senate on Tuesday morning, Grassley, who represents all of Grundy County, discussed the aforementioned topics and others for around 20 minutes with The Grundy Register.
Reynolds announced during a widely circulated press conference that the first bill she hoped to sign in 2018 would be a water quality solution package, as Iowa contains some of the most contaminated lakes, rivers and streams in the country mostly due to excess phosphorus and nitrogen. Democrats and environmental activists have largely sought to place the blame on farm runoff, hog confinements and excessive application of both manure and commercial fertilizer, and the well-publicized Des Moines Water Works lawsuit of 2016 brought those issues to the forefront.
Republicans, on the other hand, have hesitated to attack one of their core constituencies, instead proposing the allocation of around $25 million in funds from the water excise tax, gambling revenues and Vision Iowa bonds to provide cost sharing opportunities for farmers utilizing voluntary practices like buffer strips, filtration systems, wetlands and saturated buffer zones—along with infrastructure upgrades at water treatment facilities in urban areas.
“I don’t think we should be passing water quality (legislation) to punish one group or blame one group or the other,” Grassley, a farmer by trade, said. “I think this shows that it isn’t placing the blame anywhere, and this is an Iowa problem that needs to be addressed.”
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