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Future of State-Supported Soil Conservation In Doubt

Future of State-Supported Soil Conservation In Doubt

Revenue from sin tax on the decline

Clean Water Indiana, carried on from the successful 'T by 2000' program created by the legislature in 1986, may be on its way to extinction. It was the first time that funding directly supported soil and water conservation. The mechanism chosen at the time to get the program off the ground was the cigarette tax.

Believe in conservation: Ray McCormick even seeds cover crops both of his corn head and bean head. The Vincennes farmer says it's time the legislature found a new funding source for Clean Water Indiana.

Two and a half decades later, the main source of funding for Clean Water Indiana and the Division of Soil Conservation, now housed in the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, remains the cigarette tax. Unfortunately for programs that depend on cigarette tax for revenues, such as Clean Water Indiana, the sin tax is doing what it is supposed to do – discourage people from smoking. As fewer people smoke today than in 1986, revenue raised through the cigarette tax continues to decline.

Ray McCormick, immediate past president of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, says that IASWCD is asking for a million dollars in the budget for Clean Water Indiana above and beyond the cigarette tax. The request has been made before. Sometimes it has been included, sometimes not. Even when it has, the money hasn't always materialized. Just because the legislature passes funding doesn't mean a check shows up on the director's desk. Sometimes it gets lost in the bowels of government, and the agency that was supposed to get the money never sees it.

McCormick says his bigger hope is that groups depending upon cigarette tax money for support can convince the legislature to begin looking at alternative revenue options. He foresees revenue from the cigarette tax continuing to decline.

Bob Kraft, Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., a lobbyist, says that while the soil conservation request is for a good cause, it may be tough to get it into the budget.

"It becomes a matter of priorities for the legislature," he says. "People will need to make their case to legislators one-on-one if they want it included."

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