NW Iowa legislators' reports
With just two weeks left before the first legislative deadline, when a number of bills must be passed out of committee, week six of the 2011 Iowa General Assembly was again filled with committee many meetings, sub-committee meetings, and floor debate in the Iowa House. Information on all the bills, amendments, and floor action can be found on the Iowa General Assembly web at: www.legis.iowa.gov.
Income Tax Relief for ALL Iowans Passes the House
On February 16th, HF 194 which provides a 20% across the board income tax cut for all Iowans passed with bipartisan support, 62-33 and moves to the Senate for their consideration. The bill helps all Iowans and takes a big step towards helping small businesses put Iowans back to work by keeping money in the hands of Iowans throughout the state. Small businesses are where most job creation occurs in our economy. This will help them invest and grow their business.
Iowa has over 1.5 million taxpayers including thousands of Iowa taxpayers being small businesses. Because the biggest job growth potential comes from small businesses, this bill helps every community in Iowa. Iowa's unemployment rate is still stubbornly high at 6.3%. Now is the time to stimulate Iowa's economy and help accelerate our recovery by allowing Iowans to keep more of their hard earned money.
Iowa is consistently ranked as having one of the worst tax climates. Several examples include: (1) The 2010 Small Business Entrepreneurship Council study ranking Iowa 45th, (2) The 2010 Tax Foundation study ranking Iowa 42nd, and (3) The Business Tax Climate Index ranking Iowa 45th in our tax climate. HF 194 improves our business climate dramatically and sends the signal that Iowa is open for business.
When you hear people in government talk about priorities, the taxpayer is rarely mentioned. This bill puts the Iowa taxpayers first. The "want" list from government is endless, which usually leads to more spending and taxes. This bill shows the people of Iowa that the House Republicans heard the message of less spending and lower taxes. We trust Iowans to spend their own money how they see fit.
Easing the Regulatory Burden on Iowans
Two bills passed out of the Economic Growth Committee this week that ease the regulatory burden on Iowans. HF 176 limits the state implementation of federal law or policy but cannot exceed it. HF 180 limits the function of the appointed Environmental Protection Commission (EPC). The bill restricts EPC to only implementing current law but cannot exceed, expand, or adopt new rules or laws. This should be left up to the legislature. Both bills were passed out of committee and are now eligible for consideration in the Iowa House.
Over the last several years, the EPC has overstepped its authority. They have taken upon themselves to implement rules rather than go through the legislative process for the adoption of rules and regulation. The legislature's role is to direct, delegate and/or change state statutes with the detail needed to implement state and federal law. In several instances, the EPC has adopted rules or took action that was even in part contrary to DNR director, staff, and departmental legal advice. On a couple of occasions their actions conflicted with the existing Iowa Code provisions.
Senate Majority Party Gut the Taxpayers First Act
After a full month of inaction on the budget, Senate Majority Party finally took up HF 45, the Taxpayers First Act. Unfortunately they stripped nearly all the cost savings measures from the bill. While HF 45 that was passed by the House saves $500 million over FY 2011, 2012 and 2013, the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimated the Senate version saves only $10.7 million over the same three-year period. The Senate also deleted the most important piece, the establishment of the Tax Relief Fund. Furthermore, they took out the added the needed appropriations for mental health and indigent defense that was underfunded last year.
House Passes Home Rule for School Districts
The Iowa House passed HF 260, a bill that establishes home rule for school districts in Iowa. The bill passed with bipartisan support, 65-30 and moves to the Senate for their consideration. This is a step to give school districts some autonomy and control over their own operations to meet challenging budget situations. Currently, schools are required to comply with something called Dillion's Law. So what is the difference between Dillion's Law and Home Rule?
Dillon's law restricts local governments to actions that are explicitly approved of by state legislatures. Home Rule provides the ability for a local government to act and make policy in all areas that have not been designated to be of statewide interest through general law, state constitutional provisions, or initiatives. In other words, Dillon's law means if law does not address it, you can't do it. Home Rule means if law does not address it, you can do it. It comes down to local control vs. state control.
This is not new to Iowa as cities and counties have had Home Rule in the Iowa Constitution since 1968 and 1978, respectively. 37 other states already have Home Rule of some kind.
House Republicans feel that heavy-handed state regulations can be burdensome for creativity and innovation and that the elected local school boards and superintendents know best what would serve their district and their students well. The bill gives them a chance to try new things and work effectively with the tools they have at their disposal.
IPERS Assets Climb Back to Mid 2008 Levels
The asset value of Iowa's largest public employee pension fund has started the long road to recovery. According to Karl Koch, chief investment officer for the Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System (IPERS), the fund's assets are currently worth about $22.3 billion. This is a significant increase from the $19.5 billion they were valued at last June. During the difficult financial times of the last few years, the fund saw its assets plummet from $22.3 billion in July of 2008 to $18 billion in December of that year. This decrease amounted to a decline of 19.3 percent.
IPERS currently cover 300,000 members and pays out slightly more than one billion annually in pension checks to retired state and governmental unit employees. Even though the fund is still not fully funded, corrective measures were taken last year to help achieve full funding of the IPERS pension program.
State Senator Randy Feenstra, Hull:
“Re-Open Iowa for Business” Tour Starts
Senate Republicans launched a tour collecting specific input from Iowans across the state about the onerous state rules and regulatory climate hurting job creation and keeping business from locating or expanding in Iowa.
Last week, in our first hearing, over 300 Iowans attended and approximately 100 public comments were made. Employers, both small and large, entrepreneurs, farmers, city administrators and others have become subject to overly burdensome rules and regulations by government agencies.
I believe government should not be punishing the very people who grow this state and create jobs. We need reasonable and responsible levels of rules and regulations that protect the public interest without placing an undue burden on our farmers, job creators, cities and taxpayers.
The Republicans in the Senate want to change these oppressive rules. I urge any business, farm or property owner that believes they have been a target of burdensome regulation to come to the next public hearing and voice your concern. Please come to the address noted below:
Friday, February 25, 2011
10:30 am – 12:30 pm Sioux City
Morningside College UPS Auditorium
1501 Morningside Ave
Sioux City, IA
Taxpayers on the Losing End
This week we debated the Senate Democrat Tax Payers First Bill. Their bill proposed a $10.7 million savings over three years. This was a stark contrast to the House Republicans bill that saved over $500 million over three years. These two bills truly show the difference in the two parties.
This is a philosophical difference. However, the implications are very significant. If we cut the programs that are noted below, we cut taxes. If the programs are kept, the government will need to find more tax payer revenue. These cuts were all denied by the Democrats:
•Require government workers to pay $100/month for the health insurance.
•The bill would require the executive branch to combine computer systems.
•Family Planning Waiver – cuts funding for abortions
•Eliminates funding for the passenger rail projects
•Eliminates the Power Fund and the Office of Energy Independence
•Eliminates the Grow Iowa Values Fund. ($120 million savings)
Iowa does not need these programs and this money should go back to its rightful owners “you the taxpayer.”
(Column content is unedited)
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