Capitol Update – Week Three (January 28)

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In my opening remarks on the first day of session, I set forth as a priority that House Republicans would work quickly and diligently on the priority needs of Iowans, especially on the issue of K-12 education funding. Keeping with that promise, the first bill that I brought forward for debate as House Majority Leader was Supplemental State Aid for the coming fiscal year.

This new commitment made by House Republicans provides a funding increase for K-12 schools totaling $81 million. Combined with an additional investment in the Teacher Leadership and Compensation System, we will have dedicated 84 percent of the $153 million in new available revenue to go towards K-12 education. The bill is now in conference committee where House Republicans will work to reach consensus with the Senate as quickly as possible.

House Republicans remain committed to working towards meeting the needs and providing certainty to our K-12 schools in a fiscally sound manner. Over the last five budget years, the Legislature has directed an additional $563 million worth of increased investment to our schools. Since 2011, the number of full-time teachers has increased by 809 to a total of 34,725. Just since last year, average teacher salary increased by $1,658 to $55,356.

Another key piece of legislation with a significant fiscal impact is our annual “coupling” bill to conform state tax law with changes enacted at the federal level. The House Republican plan, which passed with wide bipartisan support, benefits nearly all taxpayers. Small businesses will be able to expense up to $500,000 worth of qualifying purchases; teachers will be able to deduct out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies; seniors will be able to give tax-free contributions to qualifying charitable organizations; homeowners will be able to deduct mortgage insurance, just like they would mortgage interest; and parents and students will be able to deduct qualifying higher education expenses, reducing the cost of college and continuing education.

The coupling bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration. Once we are able to resolve coupling and school aid, we will have a much better idea of the overall budget picture and will be able to get to work setting targets and building the state’s budget.

I am encouraged by the ability of the House to take quick action on these significant pieces of legislation. I remain optimistic that we will be able to find resolution on these bills, and continue moving forward with the rest of our work for the year.

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Dansette