The Legislature completed the second legislative “funnel week” this week. The second funnel requires policy bills to have cleared either the House or Senate and a committee of the other chamber to remain eligible for consideration. Appropriations, Ways & Means, and Government Oversight bills are exempt from the funnel rules.
With the conclusion of the second funnel, we are now four weeks away from the scheduled adjournment for the 2013 session and I wanted to provide you with an update on the status of some of our top priorities. When the 85th General Assembly began in January, we committed to focusing on legislation that makes Iowa stronger- commonsense budgeting, promoting job creation through tax relief and reform, and building strong schools and communities.
We have remained committed to these goals as we have moved through this session. The House has passed four out of the five appropriations bills that were planned to start in our Chamber. We are still awaiting action from the Senate on five out of the six bills that were planned to start in that Chamber.
As promised, throughout the budget process, we have remained committed to our core budgeting principles which include not spending more than the state takes in, not using one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses, not intentionally underfunding entitlement programs simply to fix the problem down the road, and returning unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers. We are hopeful the Senate will be mindful of these fiscally responsible principles as they begin to consider more appropriations bills as well.
The House is moving forward with our plans to provide tax relief and reform to all Iowans. One proposal would hold harmless property taxpayers anytime the state sets allowable growth funding. It also eliminates additional property tax levies associated with allowable growth funding, thereby reducing the share of money that is put on the backs of Iowa property taxpayers. While we are ready and willing to hear all ideas for property tax relief, we will continue to emphasize that reform must be significant, permanent, and benefit all classes of property.
The House has also passed a bill to reduce Iowans’ income taxes by giving individuals a choice to file under the current system or to use a 4.5 percent flat tax option. This legislation makes Iowa’s tax system simpler, flatter, and fairer. Under this proposal, each taxpayer is given a choice that will enable them to do what makes the most sense for their own household budget.
Finally, we remain focused on passing legislation that will return Iowa’s education system to #1 in the nation. We realize reforming our education system is an investment in the future of our state. The education reform bill passed by the House brings the best practices of high-performing school districts to all of our schools in order to improve student achievement. The bill passed the House on February 20, was amended by the Senate on April 3, and has now been sent to conference committee for further discussion and consideration. It is time to get this done so schools can have budget certainty.
In the coming weeks we will continue to work hard on passing responsible budgets, reducing the tax burden on Iowans, and encouraging a robust education reform package that will ensure our kids have the skills they need to compete in a global economy.
As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns. If you have any feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-281-4618.