Reaching Agreement and Moving Forward

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Reaching Agreement and Moving Forward

I had many visitors stop by my office this week including Brad Barber, a small business owner from Clear Lake, and Heather Englin, who works for the American Cancer Society in Waterloo.  It’s always great to see people from back home as well as the various groups visiting the Capitol during the week.  If you happen to find yourself in Des Moines during session, feel free to stop by my office!

Several subcommittees met this week on various topics and committees continue to dig into their work for the session.  It’s clear that after a little bit of a slow start, session is humming right along.

This week, the House, Senate and Governor’s office reached an agreement on reductions that we’ll need to make to the current state budget.  As you’ll recall, revenue projections haven’t come in at the anticipated levels that we were expecting and we must make reductions to balance the state’s budget.  With our thoughtful approach to the budget, we were able to hold K-12 education harmless and protect key priorities like public safety and community colleges from severe cuts.

The Senate passed a bill that makes these reductions this week and we plan to take up the same bill for debate on the floor on Monday.

With the FY17 budget resolved, our attention will now turn to policy issues and the FY18 budget.  One of the first bills we’ll take action on is funding for schools.  Coming into the legislation session, we told school officials that we were committed to setting school funding in the first 30 days.  I believe that we’re well on track to accomplish this and provide schools with the certainty that they need to plan their budgets.  While we don’t quite know yet how much additional money we’ll provide to schools, I can tell you that it will be a level of funding that they can count on.

One final issue I want to touch on this week is tax coupling.  Last year, the House pushed the Senate and Governor to couple our state tax code with the federal government.  After weeks of inaction by the Senate, we finally succeeded in passing the coupling bill which prevented an unexpected tax increase on thousands of Iowans.  During this entire process, we made it clear that this was only for Tax Year 2015, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to do this in for 2016, and to plan accordingly.

In the past, we’ve been able to utilize unused tax dollars from the previous budget year to fund coupling.  As I mentioned earlier, we’re making budget reductions of more than $100 million, so unfortunately that means that we aren’t in the financial position to couple for Tax Year 2016.

Many have been discussing the possibility of coupling permanently which would provide more certainty to taxpayers.  In order to do this, we would have to build that ongoing commitment into the budget going forward.  We’ll be looking at the budget to see if there are opportunities to do that this session.

House Republicans will always be looking for ways to leave more money in the pockets of Iowa’s hardworking taxpayers.  This conversation could include coupling or broader tax reforms that make Iowa’s tax code simpler, fairer, and more competitive.  Stay tuned!

With the 2017 session underway, please stay in touch.  As legislation and budgets start moving through their process, please let me know your thoughts.  You can reach me at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3521.

 

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Dansette