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Hello to everyone in Senate District 40. We continue our work in Des Moines with a goal of wrapping up the session on the scheduled May 3 date. The big ticket items still on the agenda include the education reform and funding package, appropriations, Medicaid expansion and tax reform.
The education discussion is now in the hands of the conference committee that is comprised of ten members. Each house sends five members to the committee, with three each coming from the majority party and two from the minority party. On Wednesday a deal was offered by the Republicans to go along with the 4% Supplemental Aid for each of the next two years that has been demanded by the Democrats. In return Republicans asked that the education reforms be left intact. That is a serious offer, but it was blasted this morning on the Senate floor by Senator Herman Quirmbach (D – Story). We’ll have to see how that plays out over the next few days.
We continue working through the various appropriations bills in committee and on the floor. The transportation and judicial branch appropriations are both very modest increases from the FY13 budget, and are supported by nearly everyone. I have some problems with some of the other appropriations however. For example, the Economic Development appropriations bill raises the cost to taxpayers from $37.7 million in FY13 to nearly $78.5 million in FY14. That is a 108% increase of almost $40 million. All of us support economic development, but not all of us will support this kind of increase in state spending. However this bill did pass the Senate on a 26-24 party line vote.
The Agriculture and Natural Resources appropriation bill increases spending from $35.3 million in FY13 to $63.3 million in FY14, an increase of $28 million or 79%. I am the ranking member of this sub-committee, and there are some things in this appropriations bill I would like to do such as provide increased funding for the Soil Conservation Cost Share and other water quality initiatives. But I don’t believe I am representing District 40 well by supporting this 79% increase in spending. This bill, too, passed on a party line vote.
Taking all the appropriations bills collectively, Senate Democrats are calling for spending $6.89 billion of Iowa taxpayer money, a whopping 11% increase from 2013. I will continue to push back from that kind of spending. Please let me know if you disagree.
From my point of view Tuesday was a sad day in the Iowa Senate. In a very unusual move, two of the Governor’s appointees to the Iowa Board of Regents failed the Senate confirmation vote in what appeared to be pure political gamesmanship. Craig Lang has served on the Board for six years, the last two as President. Mr. Lang always been respected for his leadership on the board, and is highly qualified by all accounts, but apparently fell victim to the controversy over the Harkin Institute at Iowa State University. Robert Cramer was also denied a seat on the Board of Regents for, but for a different reason. He clearly didn’t pass the “litmus test” regarding his views on social issues. His qualifications were undeniable, his public service record is great, and his family’s efforts to provide homes for many foster children are exemplary. I truly believe this was more about faith based convictions than proven qualifications. How sad.
Iowa taxpayers are plagued with headaches every year as they prepare their income tax returns because of our complex tax system. Senate Republicans have long been tax reform advocates and want to enact meaningful legislation that helps the taxpayer. This session, along with property tax reform, we are working to reform Iowa’s individual income tax system.
Senate Republicans have crafted a bill that changes the tax code for the benefit of Iowans and enables taxpayers to keep more of their money. The proposed bill provides for a comprehensive overhaul of the Iowa income tax system giving Iowans a choice when paying their income taxes: either the current system or the new simplifed system. Compared to current law, the proposed plan provides an overall 5% reduction in income tax liability in the first year of enactment, an overall 10% reduction in liability in the second year, and an overall 15% reduction in liability in the third year and beyond.
On average, a taxpayer receiving a decrease under the new simplified plan would see an average tax reduction of $360 in tax year 2014 and $517 in tax year 2015. In realistic terms that money means a car payment, school clothes, or utility payments for Iowans and would greatly ease the burden of a tight family budget. The new, simplified option available to taxpayers flattens the Iowa income tax brackets, eliminates federal deductibility, and gets rid of the itemized deductions by replacing it with a higher standard deduction.
If Iowa wants to continue to create jobs and grow the economy we must provide comprehensive tax reform that is fair and responsible. This income tax relief plan is a step toward true tax reform needed in our state.
Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 641-295-6551.
Senator Ken Rozenboom
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