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Capitol Review 4/8/16

House and Senate Reach Agreement on Budget Targets

On Wednesday, House Republicans and Senate Democrats reached an agreement on the funding levels for the FY 2017 budget.   The Legislature is limited to spending $7.351 billion out of the General Fund under the state‘s expenditure limitation law.  The budget levels include the additional funding already authorized by the FY 2017 Supplemental School Aid bills, which increased school funding by 2.25 percent.

The FY 2017 budget will be:

budget 2017

In addition to the budget targets, the House and Senate agreed to place certain standing appropriations under the control over the budget subcommittees.  Many of these on-going appropriations had not been reviewed for years until a separate subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee examined the programs in January and February.  The funding for the programs had been accounted for under the Standings Appropriations bills.  Now, the programs and funding will be turned over to the appropriate budget subcommittee and accounted for in FY 2017 budget.  Beginning with the next General Assembly, the budget subcommittees will be conducting oversight and review of the programs. 

And Musco Said, Let there be Light!

musco

And light there was, on April 5th at 7:45 at the front of the Capitol, specifically!

On Tuesday April 5th at 7:45 pm in front of the Capitol, Musco Sports Lighting did a demonstration of the new lighting it is proposing to install on the exterior of the Capitol Building. Musco has offered to donate time and equipment to do the outdoor lighting for the Capitol, while the State would only have to pay for the labor on this project. The labor is projected to cost $225,000.

Musco Sports Lighting LLC is a private company based out of Oskaloosa, IA. Some of their projects include: Michigan State University - Munn Ice Arena, Wells Fargo Center, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Denver Broncos Field House, and USTA National Tennis Center.

Visitors at the Capitol

Boys and Girls Club

Walt met with Boys & Girls Club members and Credit Union members this week from the district. 

Credit Union

Capitol Review 4/2/16

Managed Care Launches

Medicaid Modernization launches this week. The new Medicaid system will focus on wellness and preventative care to help patients lead healthier lives, while the old system simply worked to treat diseases as they occurred.

Why the move to Medicaid Modernization?
Bureaucracy and inflexibility has created unsustainable growth in the Medicaid program which threatens the state’s ability to fund core functions like education, public safety, and courts. We have done too little to address this in the past. Reform isn’t optional, it’s imperative.

Over the last several years, spending on Medicaid has skyrocketed and all the while, patients have not become any healthier. The previous Medicaid system did not operate like an efficient system should.

Is managed care a new concept?
39 other states use some form of managed care to deliver healthcare to their Medicaid populations. Additionally, the majority of Medicaid patients across the country have their healthcare delivered through a managed care system. In fact, Iowa has used a form of managed care to deliver healthcare to a portion of the state’s Medicaid population since the 1990s.

Going forward
Medicaid Modernization provides the state with an opportunity to control the ever-growing costs of Medicaid and improve patient outcomes. Managed care will continue to preserve all current services for patients. House Republicans are working on legislation to provide oversight on Medicaid that focuses on access, quality of care, and quality of outcomes. If someone needs help navigating the new system, I am ready and willing to assist in any way I can.

Providing a Safe Water Supply for Iowans

House Republicans are committed to protecting our waterways so Iowans can enjoy a safe water supply and a clean natural resource for recreation long into the future. In order to achieve that, we must find a sustainable, long-term funding source to invest in water quality initiatives across the state.

The Iowa Water Quality Improvement Plan proposed by House Republicans would significantly increase the state’s investment in a manner that addresses both urban and rural water quality efforts.

The Iowa Water Quality Improvement Plan has dedicated long-term funding sources from both the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) and the excise tax on metered water.

The Iowa Water Quality Improvement Plan will focus on long-term infrastructure improvements that will reduce the runoff of nitrates and phosphorus into Iowa waterways and reduce soil erosion. These projects will be a public-private partnership, being funded by Iowa farmers, local communities, the state, and other private sources.

House Republicans are offering a plan that secures significant investment for water quality in the state that will preserve this precious resource for generations to come.

Pictures from the Capitol

DNA Research
I met with many students from UNI for Research Day on the Hill.  One of the projects was a designed algorithm of a knot that can help with DNA research.  

Drinking Homecoming
 Another was a study on how we can decrease student binge drinking during UNI homecoming. 

Capitol Review 3/27/16

Mythbusters in the Statehouse

MYTH: Education is not a priority for House Republicans.
FACT: 87% of all new state spending this year is going towards K-12 education.

MYTH: Funding for education has been cut by House Republicans over the last six years.
FACT: Ongoing education spending has increased by $660 million since Republicans became the majority in the Iowa House. More importantly, schools have been able to depend on that funding. Democrats made an ugly habit of passing unsustainable funding increases that they had no intention of ever following through with. Shortfalls created by the Democrats then fell on the backs of property taxpayers who were forced to pick up the tab.

MYTH: School funding levels passed by House Republicans have been inadequate which has forced schools to lay off teachers.
FACT: The number of full-time teachers in Iowa has increased by 809 since Republicans became the majority in the Iowa House. Repeated underfunding and across-the-board cuts to education led to a decrease of 907 teachers while Democrats controlled both legislative chambers.

MYTH: Tax cuts are taking money away from schools.
FACT: K-12 education’s share of the state budget has been protected and followed through on each year that Republicans have held the majority. Other than spending on Medicaid, nearly every other function of government has remained flat or has seen reductions.

MYTH: School staff salaries remain inadequate and stagnant.
FACT: The average teacher salary in the state of Iowa is $55,536, which has increased 37.6% over the last 10 years.

Update on Rock Island Clean Line

This week a subcommittee of the Government Oversight Committee was held on House Study Bill (HSB) 640.  The bill puts into place regulations addressing the Rock Island Clean Line project.  This project has been in the works for at least 4 years at the federal level and the last 2 years in Iowa.  The Clean Line itself is a 500-mile overhead high voltage direct current transmission line that will deliver in excess of 3,500 megawatts of wind power.  The line is owned by a private energy company which claims that northwest Iowa and the surrounding region (including mostly Illinois) will enjoy the benefit from this project; opponents argue the project has no benefit to Iowa once built.  The company stresses the energy is a clean and renewable source, attractive buzzwords for environmentalists and those who are interested in going green.  As for the state’s economic benefit, the company is anticipating a $2 billion investment in the state with even bigger potential for more investment in the future. 

The company received federal approval in May 2012, allowing the company to negotiate rates and enter into contracts with customers for the project. It received approval from Illinois in November 2014, which granted the company a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity to operate the line.  The company first filed its petition to request approval for the line to go through Iowa with the IUB in November 2014 but has made little progress since.  The company has held the statute required informational meetings in all of the 16 counties and has unsuccessfully requested bifurcation hearings.  The third and most recent rejection came from the IUB in early January of this year, and was passed unanimously 3-0, which essentially sent the company and the entire process into a state of limbo as it sorts out procedural issues.

The majority of Iowans involved (property owners within the state) are opposed to its existence as it would force a large condemnation of private property for it to be constructed.  It is no secret that Representative Kaufmann has been interested in the Rock Island Clean Line for several sessions, and has introduced different versions of the same bill with the end goal being to stop the Rock Island Clean Line. Representative Kaufmann began the subcommittee by stating HSB 640, as introduced, is going to change.  As it reads, the bill includes definitions for bifurcation and merchant line, which narrowly applies to the Rock Island Clean Project alone.  The bill includes a list of prohibitions companies introducing such a project to the State:

  • A company can only request bifurcation from the IUB twice
  • Those who serve on a local board, at either city or county level, are prohibited from being involved in constructing such a line
  • Judicial transfer
  • A company requesting eminent domain powers must show some progress with the project within 2 years; it cannot stop and start the process whenever it deems fit
  • A company will have to file a surety bond, equaling 15% of the total project cost, and that company will be liable for any and all damages which may be caused by the project
  • Any labor used on the line must be provided by Iowa residents

The bill includes a retroactive portion to go back to projects that began in November 2014.

While there was a large group of people assembled for the subcommittee, there were only a couple people who spoke against the bill.  The main reason for opposition was union labor opportunities that will be available in constructing the line.  Additionally, there were some who stated these types of opportunities, for a private company coming into the state to invest money through various projects with a large public benefit, would become more and more prevalent in the future. They stated perhaps there should be some legislative updates to address these potential opportunities in a way to foster a good relationship as opposed to focusing on this one issue –a statement that was well received.  The Clean Line lobbyists remained silent, and the entire meeting took only a couple of minutes; IUB remained neutral on the topic.  The bill passed subcommittee and Representative Kaufmann stated he is willing to work with all parties who have concerns.  Due to the large nature of the project, the fact that roughly 13% of the properties actually having entered into easement agreements with the Clean Line, and because the current process remains in a constant pause causing uncertainty for Iowa landowners, this bill remains a priority.

Capitol Review 3/17/16

The Budget Picture

The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) continues to urge caution on the state budget, confirming what House Republicans have been standing strong on for the last five years. State general fund revenue estimates are generated by the Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference (REC). It was established in Iowa Code 8.22A during the 1987 state reorganization, as a way to arrive at consensus General Fund revenue estimates to be used by both the Governor and Legislature for the budget process.

The Revue Estimating Conference (REC) has recognized that Iowa is experiencing slow, steady revenue growth, and that a realistic approach to government spending is a wise path to follow.

House Republicans will continue to budget under the same common sense budgeting practices that Iowa families and businesses use:

-          We will spend less than the state collects

-          We will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs;

-          We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs; and

-          We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.

The state is limited by the expenditure limitation law which means the state is allowed to spend $7.351 billion of taxpayer’s hard-earned money. This is an increase of $176 million compared to the budget that was approved last legislative session. That’s more than enough to meet the needs of Iowans’ priorities.

House Republicans original budget target is lower than the state’s expenditure limitation, while Senate Democrat’s target is above. House Republican’s plan will not require any cuts. Senate Democrats will likely need to make some big changes to make their spending fit within the expenditure limitation.

Coupling Bill Passes

Tuesday morning, I supported House File 2433, a bill that provides direct and immediate tax relief to thousands of Iowans and also provides permanent tax clarity for Iowa businesses.

Iowans know how to invest their own money and don’t need the government telling them how to spend it. With more money left in the pockets of Iowans, this is a huge win for the taxpayers.

House File 2433 prevents a $95 million tax increase on Iowans by coupling with the federal tax code.  Coupling benefitted more than 177,000 taxpayers in 2014 including small businesses, farmers, teachers, homeowners, and college students.

House File 2433 also includes provisions to codify the sales tax exemption for supplies used in manufacturing.  Known as “consumables,” this provision ensures that the state is not unfairly taxing supplies and replacement parts during the manufacturing process.  Under the current law, this often amounts to a double taxation on manufacturers.  For too long, ambiguity in the code led to inconsistent interpretations by the Department of Revenue based on the state’s revenue needs.  By codifying this exemption, manufacturers are given a clear and consistent definition of what is subject to sales tax.

The bill passed the House on a vote of 79-18 with all Republicans supporting the bill. 

Education Funding On the Horizon

With the March Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) in the past and agreement on how much revenue is available in the next fiscal year, a decision on education funding is on the horizon. House Republicans are committed to finding a solution which provides school districts with the highest responsible increase that the state can fulfill.

This will be the sixth year in a row where schools receive an increase and the state has followed through on its commitment. Since Republicans have been the majority in the House, investment in education has increased by more than half a billion dollars and the number of teachers in classrooms has grown by 809.

Address

PO Box 1142
Cedar Falls, IA 50613

 

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