Voting on individual budget bills in House subcommittees began today. The step is just the first in a long road the House, Senate and Governor will take to pass a balanced budget that funds Iowans’ priorities. The House Republican proposals to slash education investment, contrasted with their $700 million tax cut passed last week, reveal priorities that are different from mine. I also believe they are different from many Iowans. The state’s strengthening fiscal picture means we can pass a targeted tax cut and fund quality preschool. We can pass a targeted tax cut and fund K-12 education. If nothing else, House Republicans’ passage of a $700 million tax cut shows our agreement about the state’s fiscal strength and the fact we have choices.
House Republicans’ education budget only includes $33 million for preschool. This compares to about $100 million in last year’s budget. Not only is the investment $67 million less than last year, it is under the $40 million proposed by Governor Branstad. I am also still waiting to see House Republicans’ voucher plan they intend to substitute for our current quality-driven, results-based, public-private partnership voluntary preschool program. The $33 million House Republicans intend to appropriate so far comes with no quality standards, no provision for teacher development, and no provision to guarantee access in communities where the state program is the only option.
The fight to keep 20,000 Iowa kids in preschool will continue to the end of the session and I encourage you to continue to contact legislators to make their views known.
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On to the update…
In This Issue
1. Expansion of Earned Income Tax Credit in Jeopardy in House
2. Iowa’s Smoke-Free Air Act Has Broad Support
3. Cedar Rapids Region Sports Authority District Reports Huge Impact
4. Capitol Visits
Expansion of Earned Income Tax Credit in Jeopardy in House
Last week the Senate passed legislation increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 7% to 10% of the federal credit. The EITC was created to reduce the tax burden on lower income workers, supplement their wages, and encourage greater participation in the workforce. The goal of this legislation is to boost the economy of Iowa, improve financial stability for low-income working Iowans, and expand opportunities to build assets. An increase in the state EITC would increase work participation among single parents and significantly reduce childhood poverty, improving the future for thousands of Iowa’s children.
Iowans eligible for the EITC are low to moderate income workers with an earned income of less than $38,348. The average tax credit is $1500. Eligibility for the EITC is based on income level, marital status, and number of dependent children.
Unfortunately, House Republicans voted to strip the EITC increase out of the legislation while simultaneously increasing a tax provision to benefit businesses. It is a shame after a $700 million income tax cut, hundreds of millions in tax cuts for Iowa’s largest corporations and a nine-figure tax cut for commercial property tax owners House Republicans choose a tax cut for Iowans making less than $38,000 to be the first one they don’t like.
Iowa’s Smoke-Free Air Act Has Broad Support
Selzer & Company, a well-respected Iowa polling firm, surveyed 500 registered voters on their attitudes toward the Smoke-Free Air Act (SFAA). The results of the poll are striking. 79% of Iowa voters feel the SFAA has made Iowa a better place to leave. 71% indicate they feel the law made their lives better. 73% indicate they would oppose repealing the legislation, 56% of those said they strongly oppose repeal.
The survey also revealed positive economic impacts. Iowans are venturing out more often. Almost half (42%) of those surveyed indicated they are going out more often in response to cleaner air in restaurants, bars and bowling alleys. More than one in three (37%) indicate they are now going places they used to avoid because of smoke. 59% of those surveyed indicated it is a proper role of government to protect its citizens from health hazards such as smoking and second-hand smoke.
Cedar Rapids Region Sports Authority District Reports Huge Impact
Legislation passed in 2008 created 10 regional sports authorities across the state and appropriated $50,000 to each. Regions were required to match the state funds dollar for dollar. The Cedar Rapids Region Sports Authority District has taken the seed money and multiplied it over 112 times. The CR District brought ten events to the area under through the authority program. These events brought 30,000 visitors to the region. The visitors spent $5.6 million in local businesses and generated 12,000 overnights in hotels and 957 nights in campgrounds.
Tourism is big business in Linn County. The Cedar Rapids Convention & Visitors Bureau states the overall impact to the area is $402.2 million. An average of 1540 hotel rooms are filled each evening in Cedar Rapids, making $250 million in purchases over the course of a year. The Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is already actively marketing our community’s new convention complex.
Lisa Pritchard was at the Capitol on Monday. I saw a number of folks in Des Moines for the Iowa Federation of Labor State Conference including Kelly Cavalier, Scott Smith, Al Hartl, Bill Hanes, Norm Sterzenbach, Randy Sconyers, Shelley Parbs, Zay Turner-Ford, Tom Larkin and Wayne Sawtelle.
CR Police Chief Greg Graham was at the Capitol Tuesday for a subcommittee on a bill limiting the use of red-light cameras. Congressman Dave Loebsack also visited. In addition to folks from the Iowa Fed listed above, Coy Marquardt, Rich Good, Josh Ironside, Dave Hogan and Gary Dunham were at a rally against a bill ending collective bargaining rights for public employees. Marilee Fowler, Mary Lee Malmberg and Jennifer Pickar from the Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau were also in Des Moines for the Iowa Tourism Federation legislative event.
I spoke with a number of local Realtors at the Capitol on Tuesday. Julie Anderson, Lana Baldus, David Bey, Will Brandt, Amanda Brant, Beth Brockette, Dawn Brown, Peg Cretin, Gary Doerrfeld, Renae Forsyth-Christy, Sharon Gass, Marily Gill, Bob Hackney, Kathy Hall, Kevin Heinbuch, Deanna Howard, Sheryl Jahnel, Mary Ann Jones, Merle Kopel, Rick Kullander, Les Marquart, Jill Monnahan, Jaclyn Neyens, Lisa Nolan, Susan Norman, Dennis Petersen, Maryann Petesich, Kevin Platz, Tom Sandersfeld, Jon Stahl, Audrey Thompson, Andrea Timp, Robin Tucker, Sherry Wahl, Scott Wahl and Mitch Weideman visited.
Leta Wall and Bob Hearst visited with AARP on Wednesday morning. I also talked about Iowa’s Small Business Development Centers with John Lohman of Corridor Media Group. Wednesday was Corridor Day at the Capitol with a massive group visiting from Linn and Johnson Counties. Visitors included Brad Hart, Bill Vernon, Chuck Peters, Scott Swenson, Andy Stoll, Katie Mulholland, Tom Hobson, Cindy Dietz, Jeff Pomeranz, Angie Charipar, Kris Gulick, Jeff Schamberger, Kirk Watson, Jeanne Brandes, Jeff Rossate, Dennis Jordan, Dee Baird, Mary Audia, Nancy Quellhorst, Stacey Cyphert, Tom Cilek, Ellen Habel, Kelly Hayworth, Joe Raso, Kevin Olson, Mike Funke, Lynden Miller, Dale Helling, Kelly Garvin, Scott Anderson, Brad Langguth, and Paul Heath.
Thursday I visited with Joe Horaney and John Foster from the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency. We talked about the bottle bill, recycling and permit fees. Troy Price with the Can Shed also visited the Capitol to talk recycling.
Enjoy the weekend!