So many things to talk to you about…so little time! This week, we experienced some pretty fast action on some important bills – both in Education. HSB 117 concerns the annual appropriation that determines the amount that will be budgeted for public schools. It is supposed to reflect an increase that will counter inflationary costs that all districts experience. The House and Senate versions of the bill asks for 3% increase; the Governor, 2.5%. The bill came out Monday afternoon, a subcommittee discussed it Tuesday noon, and it was voted out of committee that afternoon. There was not much chance for district school officials or the general public to comment.
Another way to look at it is this: 3% means Iowa will increase its spending for public schools by approximately $107 million for half a million kids. In recent legislation, we agreed to spend approximately $107 million on ESA kids (14,000 private school kids). This year, we will also give corporations $160 million in tax breaks. If we matched those amounts in spending for our public school kids, we would have $267 million to ensure that we, once again, are giving top priority to creating an educational environment for all kids that is second to none and helping school districts deal with inflation.
HF9 was also passed very quickly through its subcommittee and the full Education Committee on Tuesday. This bill would mandate that, if a student confides in a teacher or counselor any information about their sexual or gender identity, that person must inform the parents. In my opinion, this bill – along with others in the pipeline – are unnecessary and are intended to solve imaginary problems at a time when we have real problems to solve. These divisive “culture war” bills will continue to worsen Iowa employers’ ability to attract, recruit, and retain a world class workforce.
I also want to note that there are several bills making their way through the Veterans Affairs Committee that should have a positive effect on matters relating to the Department of Veterans Affairs and county commissions and cemetery expenditures (HSB103); military property tax exemption and credit (HF141); county commissions of veterans affairs training (HF140); and the amount the commission of veterans affairs may use from certain designated sources for the benefit of veterans (HF142).
An issue of interest to all: In 2013, a comprehensive tax bill was passed with the promise from state government that the state would backfill any loss of revenue to cities and counties. Fast forward to 2023 and the majority party discovered that they miscalculated by 3%, which amounted to $127 million in underpayments to these entities.
HF1 is in the Ways and Means Committee; it would require local governments to decertify their current budgets and create new budgets with a 3% cut to make up for the state’s mistake. This has the potential of resulting in the loss of some essential local services like ambulance, police and fire. Democrats are proposing an amendment to pay the $127 million to local governments out of the Tax Payer Trust Fund (which is full at $1 billion).
Local governments should not have to cut their services to residents because of a mistake the state made. Fulfilling the promise made is the fair and equitable thing to do.