Newsletter: Rozenboom Report (3/7/2014)

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There have been many discussions regarding Iowa’s workforce this legislative session. However, one of the areas that should be receiving more attention than it has in the past several months is Iowa’s skilled worker shortage. Without question, there is a skilled worker void in our state. One way to narrow that gap is expanding Iowa’s apprenticeship program.

Iowa has been very proactive in its economic development efforts in the last several years. With more than $7.5 billion in capital investments created through the state’s incentive and recruitment efforts, the skilled workforce demand continues to grow. As the Governor stated in his State of the State address, it is important that we work to provide more apprenticeship opportunities for Iowans.

Apprenticeship programs in Iowa are advantageous to the individual seeking new career opportunities. Iowans electing to pursue an apprenticeship receive hands-on training and a paycheck on their first day of work, and are not saddled with student loan debt. This concept continues to garner more attention. Nationwide, more than 1,000 careers have registered apprenticeship programs, which impact 250,000 employers and 450,000 apprentices. Last year, there were 8,100 Iowans participating in 662 apprenticeship programs.
Governor Branstad has proposed tripling funding for apprenticeships that currently exist under the 260F worker training program, which assists businesses with employee training expenses. This is a great step in the right direction because it trains Iowans for good jobs that are needed for our economy to continue to grow.

It has been said that our greatest resource is our youth. As a lawmaker, I take very seriously the responsibility of providing our youth with the necessary tools to be successful after graduating from high school. In the past several weeks, after listening to my constituents and my Senate colleagues, I have learned something very disheartening. When it comes to financial literacy, many Iowa students do not understand personal finance components such as mortgages, loan payments, and credit card debt.

The Iowa Senate is exploring legislation that would instruct the director of the Iowa Department of Education to develop and implement a voluntary program to recognize high schools that participate in the promotion of financial literacy.
This program will help motivate students and schools to participate in financial literacy programming, and better educate Iowa students on the numerous financial issues that will affect them in the future. Additionally, it also directs the Governor or Iowa Department of Education to annually recognize and honor the schools which demonstrate 90 percent of the high school seniors completed and passed an assessment based on the program. Providing financial literacy training will help educate and motivate young adults, and the impact of this will be realized for years to come.

Legislative leaders released joint budget targets this week, and I’m encouraged that sound budgeting practices are in place. Under this negotiated budget the state 1) spends less than it takes in, 2) doesn’t purposely underfund programs, 3) doesn’t spend one-time money for ongoing programs, and 4) returns money to Iowa taxpayers.

I appreciate the House Republicans sticking to conservative budgeting practices that have helped us turn an almost $1 billion structural deficit into a large surplus. And, while I appreciate the work the House Republicans have done to keep our fiscal house in order, we must recognize that the targets we have today are a compromise with the Senate Democrats. For that reason, the proposed targets are an increase of 7.4% over the FY 2014 budget. This growth is more than double historic spending increases of 3.6%. Equally troubling, this increase far exceeds the growth in household incomes.

Assuming no recessions, a study by the nonpartisan LSA over the next five years shows state expenditures exceeding revenues and the surplus being depleted. While I stand by the commitments we made in education reform, health care and property tax reform, it is clear we need to re-prioritize our budget and make some difficult choices now to ensure that our budget is sustainable over the long term.

Senator Ken Rozenboom

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