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SMALLER, SMARTER

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Capitol Review 2/27/15

rogers floor

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.  

Capitol Review 2/20/15

UNI Day on the Hill

uni day

On Monday, I hosted TC & TK here at the Capitol. UNI had a successful day talking with state legislators about the school. 

2015-16 House Republican Budget Principles

House Republicans are committed to these principles to produce a balanced and sustainable state budget:

  1. We will spend less than the state collects
  2. We will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs
  3. We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs
  4. We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers

Tax Relief

HF 125/SF126 passed the House last week making conforming tax changes for Iowa income taxes.  Generally speaking, this bill saves Iowa taxpayers and families money in areas such as:  out-of-pocket expenses for teachers, tuition and fees, and mortgage insurance premiums.  It saves Iowa businesses money through updates to the Research Activities Credit, and small businesses equipment costs.  Governor Branstad signed the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

Capitol Review 2/13/15

Visits to the Capitol This WeekechoesEchoes Group from Holmes Jr. High School in Cedar Falls 

realtorsRealtors Day on the Hill, Realtors from Black Hawk County 

rock islandA group to stop the Rock Island Clean Line project (RICL)

Capitol Review 2/6/15

Orange Elementary

5th Grade Students from Orange Elementary Visit the Capitol

The First Lego League from Orange Elementary visited the Capitol on Wednesday to share their message on how to be a better listener.  They met with legislators and senators, toured the historic Capitol building, and met with Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds to share their message. They even got me to wear a bow tie!

Please watch their video, “Kid Congress Teaches the World to Listen” at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwzqVSssQe8

Governor Unveils Broadband Proposal

Governor Terry Branstad’s newest proposal to expand high-speed Internet access resembles last year’s proposal, but also has important differences.   The new bill attempts to incentivize broadband expansion in areas of Iowa where Internet speeds are below 25 megabits per second of download speed and three megabits per second of upload speed. 

Under the bill, an Internet provider could apply to the state’s chief information officer for a grant and a three-year property tax exemption for their new investments in underserved areas of Iowa.  It also would require local governments to either approve or deny applications for broadband infrastructure within 60 days of their submission. 

Unlike last year’s proposal, this year’s “Connect Every Acre” proposal does not include a process for private companies to lease bandwidth from the Iowa Communications Network (ICN).   It also does not include provisions governing the siting of cellular towers, another contentious issue from last year. 

The House Commerce Committee is considering the legislation and hearing from stakeholders.  Tuesday’s meeting featured representatives from Mediacom, Century Link and a small Iowa communications company.   A subcommittee of three Republicans-- Representatives Peter Cownie, Tom Sands and Chuck Soderberg--and two Democrats will closely consider the bill this week as they gather further input from stakeholders and the public.   

Address

PO Box 1142
Cedar Falls, IA 50613

 

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