Newsletter: Rozenboom Report (3/4/2016)

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Floor debate occupied much of our time this week in the Iowa Senate. On Wednesday we spent significant time discussing the need for legislative oversight in regard to Medicaid Modernization. I voted for an amendment that would provide legislative oversight of the Medicaid Modernization, but could not support the final version of the bill because that version certainly would not have been supported by the House, and would not have been signed by the Governor. The bill now goes to the House for their consideration. The federal government gave the state approval to begin the new modernization program on April 1.

Other floor activity this week included a bill allowing teenagers who are 17 years old to vote in primary elections if they turn 18 before the general election. This practice is not completely new in Iowa. Both parties allowed 17 year olds to participate in this year’s presidential caucuses if they turn 18 before the 2016 general election in November.

Legislators are awaiting news from the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC), which is scheduled to meet again on March 16. The REC meets in October, December and March. The December revenue estimate must be used to set the budget unless the March estimate is lower. In that case, the March estimate must be used. The current estimate for FY 2017 is $7.327 billion, which is a 4% increase over FY 16 estimate.

We have heard all year this is going to be a challenging budget year and I do not anticipate that to improve following the REC meeting later this month. Be assured that I will be mindful of your hard-earned tax dollars as the budget process kicks into high gear in the next few weeks.

The House voted the tax coupling bill out weeks ago, and it is past time that we do the same in the Senate. One small step was taken to help farmers and small businesses in Iowa when the Iowa Department of Revenue extended the tax filing deadline from April 16th to April 30th for Iowans who earn at least two-thirds of their income from farming. This buys Senate Republicans more time to convince Senate Democrats to bring the coupling bill to the floor for a vote.

This is an important issue for Iowa. However, this week Senator Robb Hogg was very critical of small business owners and farmers who have contacted their legislators about federal coupling and shifted blame of inaction to Congress. He said he “understood there are a lot of big crocodile tears being shed over this issue” and “maybe people had this belief that it might or would happen, but that doesn’t justify their claim that they were counting on it.” To me, this is disappointing and insulting.

My Senate Republican colleague, Senator Feenstra, responded saying this inaction is failing Iowa farmers and small business owners, and I strongly agree. We have been coupling with the federal tax code for the past few years and Iowans saw no reason we would not do so this year. I still believe we will find a way to get this done, but we need Senate Democrats to step up and show they understand that this legislation will not only help agriculture and industry, but that employees and unions will also benefit from keeping our job creators healthy and viable.

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