want bottled-water tax
By Seth Slabaugh
The Star Press
INDIANAPOLIS - Soil and water conservationists lobbied
legislators this week for a sales tax on bottled water
and packaged ice to fund their Clean Water Indiana program.
"Indiana spends the least amount on soil and water
conservation compared to neighboring states," state
Sen. Robert Meeks, R-LaGrange, said at a Tuesday conference.
"Indiana's counties and state government spend about
$7.2 million a year versus the Midwest average of $21.4
Meeks added, "Indiana needs to do better, particularly
if we are to take advantage of federal programs like the
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program [CREP], which
requires a state match."
CREP pays farmers to retire environmentally sensitive
land, restore widlife habitat and re-forest the edges
of rivers, lakes and streams to protect them from soil
and pesticide runoff.
During their annual conference, members of the Indiana
Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts invite
legislators to a breakfast where they lobby them for funding.
The Legislature created Clean Water Indiana in 1999,
but the only time it received any money was $1 million
in 2001 from lottery and riverboat revenue.
State Rep. William Friend, R-Macy, last year proposed
a tax on bottled water and an increase in landfill tipping
fees to fund Clean Water Indiana programs like CREP. Neither
This year, Friend plans to introduce a bill to bring
back the 6-percent sales tax on bottled water and packaged
ice, which would generate an estimated $6 million a year
for soil and water conservation.
Just last year, the Legislature eliminated the sales
tax on those products. That change took effect on Jan.
1 of this year.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Davis spoke at the breakfast in support
of more money for soil and water conservation.
"Protecting our environment is so critically important
to the future success and long-term competitiveness of
the state of Indiana," Davis said.
Scott King, the mayor of Gary, another breakfast speaker,
said, "The quality of water substantially increases
the quality of life for all of us. Improved quality of
life is a direct, relevant, positive factor for economic
growth and economic redevelopment."
Gary is bordered by 11 miles of Lake Michigan.
Representatives of hunters, farmers, bass fishermen,
lake managers, water companies, and other groups attended
the breakfast to show their support.
So far, Indiana has committed only $120,000 for CREP.
By comparison, Illinois has earmarked $60 million, Kentucky
$22 million, Michigan $35 million, Minnesota $60 million,
Ohio $14.3 million, and Wisconsin $43 million for CREP.
That will leverage from $86 million to $262 million in
federal CREP spending in each of those states.