Walt spoke on the floor this week about his alternative to the gas tax.
Education Funding and Collective Bargaining Reforms
To control the rising costs of education, we must address our collective bargaining issues. Iowa’s collective bargaining law has no requirement for arbitrators to consider the impact a proposed pay increase will have on the state budget and the taxpayers. Arbitrators only have to look at the state’s authority to raise or levy taxes to pay for the proposed pay increase. They have no responsibility to look at the current tax rates in relation to the state’s ability to fund a proposed increase. The playing field is wildly tipped in favor of public-sector unions and against the taxpayers.
Key collective bargaining reforms that would help control rising costs for school districts are:
- Allowing an arbitrator to choose between two impasse points, not just an either/or scenario. The reason to avoid arbitration is that, given what an arbitrator is currently allowed to consider, management is likely to lose. The playing field is tilted in favor of labor and against the folks funding the eventual agreement – the taxpayers. Giving the arbitrator power to consider points between two parties allows for a level playing field at the arbitration level of contract negotiations.
- An arbitrator, during binding arbitration, should be allowed to compare public wages and benefits to those in the private sector. Currently, an arbitrator compares wages to other public sector employees. Those public sector employees are often represented by the same unions and thus the comparison amounts to comparing a union to itself. By including a comparison to the private sector wages and benefits, an arbitrator could look at the entire spectrum of facts and maintain parity between the public and private sectors.
Attracting Veterans for Careers in Waste Water Treatment
On Thursday, February 19, 2015, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a press release announcing that the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) approved a rule giving credit to qualified veterans towards becoming certified drinking water or wastewater treatment operators in Iowa.
The Iowa DNR has been a leader in crediting military experience and training towards certifying veterans. They have worked with federal and state veterans, labor and education departments to become the first in the nation to fulfill a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s initiative to attract and hire veterans for careers in water and wastewater occupations. The new rule clarifies the accrediting process and meets the requirements of the 2014 Home Base Iowa Act for certifying veterans for professional and occupational licenses.
Americans Get an “F” on their Tax Knowledge
The average American is completely confused by the U.S. tax code. It is no surprise considering the complicated brackets, rates, credits, deductions, carry forwards, and so on. The average adult scored just a 51 percent on a 10-question test given to 1000 adults by the personal finance website NerdWallet. That is a failing grade by anyone’s standards.
The questions touched on several basic items including 529 plans, healthcare, retirement, and filing status. The one thing test takers did seem to grasp was what withholdings from paychecks were. Tax experts partially blame software, like Turbo Tax, for the lack of knowledge. Software like that seems to have all the answers for questions most taxpayers do not even know to ask.
Maybe uneducated taxpayers are not completely to blame. Maybe the code has gotten so complicated that it would take a law degree just to have a basic understanding of the American tax system. Iowa’s tax code is not any better than the federal system. It has nine brackets and countless deductions and credits based on federal calculations. If an Iowa tax form test was given to 1000 average Iowans, one has to seriously doubt we would fare any better than 51 percent accuracy. If Iowans had an alternative system, like a flat tax, or a sales tax focus, which would cut out all the confusing marginal rates and get rid of most credits and deductions, maybe we could bring our grade in tax class up?
To take the tax quiz visit: http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/taxes/nerdwallet-tax-basics-quiz/.
Front License Plates – Necessary or Nuisance?
House Files 110 and 111 both remove front license plate requirements for special types of vehicles, but the bills have sparked some interest as to why front license plates are necessary for every car – what purpose do they serve?
The Department of Public Safety has maintained that these front plates are for safety purposes; law enforcement uses these front plates on a daily basis. Additionally, as technology evolves, there are some law enforcement programs that are now able to scan these front license plates before even addressing the driver. While these programs are not used in Iowa, yet, it is a possibility and just another tool law enforcement will be able to utilize to ensure safety.
On the other side, people argue that these front license plates are just for revenue-generating purposes; they are only essential for automated traffic enforcement purposes to catch the front license plates on cameras and then send a ticket, as well as for toll booth purposes. Others would advocate for one plate stating the State would only have to produce half the amount of license plates, resulting in a savings to the State, although the numbers are still being figured for such an argument. Further, there are several specific car owner groups, such as corvettes and other older collectible vehicles, who argue these plates ruin the aesthetic appeal of their cars – especially since they argue there is no other value to these license plates.