DES MOINES, Iowa- The 2018 Iowa Legislative session began Monday and lawmakers are eager to get back to work.
The No. 1 issue all of our local representatives have commented on is the importance of balancing the budget after the Iowa Revenue Estimate Conference predicted a shortfall for the second year in a row.
“Our first focus should be on balancing the budget,” said Democratic State Representative Sharon Steckman.
“We want to make sure that we balance our budget,” said Republican State Representative Tedd Gassman.
“Our revenues came in a little bit shorter than what they estimated and it’s what we are going to have to deal with,” said Republican Senator Waylon Brown.
The board predicts lawmakers will have to find a way to cut around $45 to $90 million.
“That should be a big concern to all Iowans,” said State Representative Todd Prichard. We have almost full employment in the state and we still have to make cuts. Something is really going to have to change.”
"It’s going to come from where we think it’s most appropriate,” said Representative Gassman. “There are some things that we do here that are less important and that’s where it’s going to have to come from.”
Local policymakers say they worry about where some of these cuts will be made, but tax reform is something lawmakers are still looking in to.
“We do have a higher rate and it’s a little complicated,” says Representative Jane Bloomingdale. “We can simplify tax returns and flatten the rates out just a little bit.”
“We haven’t seen the proposal for the cuts yet, but we are all concerned what services they will impact,” said State Senator Amanda Ragan. “It will have an impact on the lives of Iowans.”
While legislators are looking at a statewide reform with mixed feelings, federal tax reform is taking shape as well leaving local representatives wondering what this could mean when it goes in to place.
“The federal deductibility amounts change, meaning there will be impacts to the budget,” says Representative Prichard. “It will be a necessity that there will be some impact to the budget and to Iowans from tax reform.”
According to local representatives we spoke with, the state did see a two-percent increase from the year previous, and the Iowa Revenue Estimate Conference predicts a four-percent increase for the next fiscal year.
Water quality is an issue local lawmakers say needs to be addressed this year. They say there are currently two bills, one in the House and one in the Senate, while other representatives say they want to see the IWILL fund put to use.
Local educators are also pushing for local lawmakers to support two funds that have a sunset.
The SAVE fund expires in 2029, but local schools want to see this fund extended now to help keep them from having to raise property taxes.
The fund is a cent sales tax that schools use to bond out infrastructure projects. Educators we spoke with say because the sunset is 2029 and most bonds are for 20 years, it puts them in a tough spot to try and utilize the funds.
The Operational Sharing Incentives is also set to expire, something several schools in our area utilize. The incentive allows for schools to share specific school employees such as superintendents. This allows the school to save money and accept additional children for potential increases.