DES MOINES — Cedar Rapids residents pressured a legislative panel for more accountability in proposed flood mitigation legislation, but didn’t provide specifics lawmakers sought.
A five-member House Ways and Means subcommittee heard Wednesday from representatives of We Can Do Better CR, who raised various concerns with Senate File 2217 that has been approved by the Senate. The subcommittee unanimously moved the bill to the full committee.
Citing a “deficit of trust,” Cedar Rapids resident Shane Beckman asked lawmakers to consider enforcement mechanisms to ensure state sales taxes would be appropriately used.
“If the city is going to petition the state for dollars, we want to make sure they go for stated purposes,” he said.
Lawmakers agreed, but repeatedly asked what enforcement mechanisms the resident wanted.
Those protections exist in the bill, Tom Cope, a lobbyist for Cedar Rapids, told House members. The bill defines what kind of projects are eligible and restricts use to flood mitigation projects, requires cities to show public support as well as private sector investment and a state board will oversee the use of the funds.
“Several aspects of this bill are designed to be very tight,” he said. “We’re willing to look at suggested language … but we’ve spent a lot of time working on this. There are a lot of safeguards in there.”
The measure would create a Flood Mitigation Program administered by a state board. The board could allow communities to retain growth in sales tax revenues over a period of time or provide state aid from a state flood fund for communities without sales tax growth. The program requires a 50 percent local match.
As much as $30 million a year could be diverted from general fund sales tax revenues with as much as $15 million available for any one project.
Unlike previous state flood assistance that was delivered in lump sums, “this is a stream of money over a 10-year program,” said Cedar Rapids lobbyist Larry Murphy. The state board will have the authority “to slow down or cut off the sales tax rebate money.”
Earlier this month, the bill was approved 21-4 by the House Appropriations Committee.