Last week was Week 6 at the Statehouse and, along with the first legislative deadline of the session, is known as the “first week of the funnel.” This is one of the busiest weeks of the year as bills must be out of committees for consideration for the remainder of the legislative session, with the exception of bills from committees of appropriations, pathways and resources and government oversight. This self-imposed deadline narrows the focus on the most important legislation of the year.
Senate File 2275: The governor’s workforce bill passed the commerce committee last week. The purpose of the bill is to help address the labor shortage that affects nearly every sector of Iowa’s economy. Some of the provisions highlighted include the introduction of a one-week waiting period for benefits and moving the duration from 6 months to 4 months. Long-term government payments that replace work have negative implications not only for the economy in general, but also for individuals and their families. This bill will help fight fraud and provide an incentive to return to work.
Senate Study Bill 3146: This bill deals with athletic eligibility in school sports and is an equity in school sports bill and requires that only female students, based on their gender, may participate in any team, sport or event. sportsman designated as being for women, women or girls. This bill does not attack anyone or their identity. It simply observes the biological differences between men and women and ensures that all athletes have an equal chance of achieving their athletic goals.
House file 2316: Sustainable and Responsible Education Budgeting
One of the first things the Iowa Senate does each session is decide the amount of additional funding for K-12 education in Iowa. We do this at the beginning of the semester so that schools can establish their budgets for the following year. What’s also important is to make sure we designate a sustainable and responsible amount that we know we can deliver. The dollars allocated in this bill, House File 2316, are additional funds to the billions we already spend on K-12 education each year. All funding for education in Iowa takes more than half of the state budget at $3.5 billion. House File 2316 is allocating nearly $160 million in additional spending on K-12 schools for the next fiscal year.
This bill also provides additional funding to further our goal of leveling the playing field for students across the state. School districts in Iowa spend varying levels on each student in Iowa depending on the district and transportation costs. The additional funds designated in this bill continue to cover these costs to ensure that the money we have allocated for K-12 funding can be spent in the classroom.
Every year, when we debate the financing of education, we hear the following phrase: “Don’t tell me what your priorities are. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what your priorities are. Anyone who looks at our budget year after year can clearly see that education is a priority. The $160 million in new funding for K-12 schools represents 57% of the new funding we are spending in our FY23 Senate budget. With the passage of this legislation, Iowa will spend $7,413 per student, not even counting the local and federal dollars that are also allocated to K-12 education. It is sustainable, responsible, and delivers on its promise to make education investments a priority in Iowa.
Senate budget plan puts taxpayers first
Last week, Senate Republicans released budget targets for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2022. These targets outline the plan for the Senate to spend taxpayers’ money on all functions of state government, but three areas dominate this spending: public safety, education and health care.
Education receives the majority of the funding increase this year and the majority of the state budget. K-12 education will receive nearly $160 million more in funding, ensuring reliable and sustainable increases for public schools. This draft budget also includes $71 million for mental health funding and the complete elimination of the mental health property tax.
The total budget plan for next year is just over $8.2 billion. This amount is the same as that proposed by Governor Reynolds earlier this year, funds reasonable state government increases, and provides for sustainable funding increases in future years. It keeps billions in reserves and only spends 90% of disposable income.
Keeping spending in check ensures that the largest income tax cut in Iowa history is sustainable. The Senate tax cut plan implements a flat tax rate of 3.6% and will save Iowa taxpayers an average of nearly $1,600 when fully implemented. It eliminates taxes on pensions, reforms the corporate tax rate to make it more consistent and fairer, and provides retirement relief for Iowa farmers.
These tax cuts improve Iowa’s income tax rate from the eighth-highest rate to the fourth-lowest. This puts the state on a path to eliminating income taxes and lessens the government’s burden on hard-working Iowans. A lower tax rate will make Iowa more competitive in the global economy as states compete for jobs and people.
We will continue to provide predictable and reliable increases to the state government. Iowa Senate’s goal is to cut taxes to ensure families keep more of what they earn and ease the burden of inflation caused by reckless federal and executive spending .
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the legislative process or specific bills or issues, please do not hesitate to contact me at (563) 289-7335 or [email protected]
Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, represents District 49 in the Iowa Senate.