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The State Legislature is entering the last full week before what we call Funnel Week.  Funnel Week is a self-imposed deadline where bills in a committee must be voted out of that committee to stay eligible for future debate.

To be honest, if we didn’t set these deadlines, we would simply never stop because what would be the reason to stop coming up with great ideas, or sometimes poor ones.  With that comes some of the first bills debated in the House, among them the State Supplemental Aid (SSA) for schools.

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By law, the Legislature must have SSA finished within 30 days of the Governor’s Condition of the State Address.  We debated the SSA formula and dollar amounts on Thursday, February 10, and so have achieved that deadline and provided a healthy increase to our taxpayer-funded schools.

Many issues are coming to the surface this year, but tax reform, workforce development, and school issues are among them.  That is not to say that those are the only issues because there is a lot more that we deal with.  If I had to boil things down, I would say almost all of what we deal with this year is a workforce issue.

Taxes are a workforce issue because people will not move to a high-tax state.  According to an Economic Outlook conducted by an organization called Rich States Poor States, Iowa is ranked 33rd in the nation in economic outlook because of our taxes.  If we were to use the Governor’s Tax bill to adjust the categories, Iowa would become the 15th ranked state in economic outlook.  This movement will make Iowa a much more competitive state regarding outlook.

I have heard many times that if people were going to move to the Midwest, they would rather move to South Dakota than Iowa because they do not have an income tax.  This may be true, but in that process, we lose many qualified people for the jobs that we have here in Iowa.  According to the same economic outlook tool I mentioned above, South Dakota is ranked number 10 in the nation in economic outlook, while Iowa is ranked number 33.  With the proposed changes to our tax code, Iowa would move to number 15th and would still be below South Dakota, but we would be much more competitive for certain.

Some of the ways that we will directly influence workforce issues include reducing the amount of time that a person can be on unemployment from 6 months to 4 months, which is the legal limit that we can reduce according to federal law.

However, we will require the jobless people who are filing unemployment to apply for jobs, interview for those jobs, and take those jobs if offered.  If a person does not do those things, then Iowa would start reducing the amount of money that is provided for unemployment insurance.  The idea is that unemployment is supposed to be a hand up, not a handout and so you can count on Iowa to give you a hand up when you are without a job, but you can’t count on Iowa to be a handout while you sit idle and watch the world go by.

We will continue to work on childcare, licensure reform, tort reform, workforce training, non-compete agreements, and many other workforce-related issues because we need workers.  I am uncertain what the school issues will look like as we navigate our session, but parents in some schools are screaming for the Legislature to do something.  I think Iowa has some great teachers, especially in our NW Iowa neighborhoods and schools.  I can’t imagine our part of the state without the caliber of teachers we have, and I am so happy that our teachers are dedicated and resourceful each and every day.

It all comes down to the Legislature, we can do a lot of things, but each of us as individuals must become a cheerleader for Iowa and somehow make a difference and improve our great state.

The Legislature is good at writing laws but it is not good at cheerleading.  Our state has so much going for it that I am excited for our future and for our outlook.  Thank you, to each and every person, for what you do to make our state just a little better each day. 

Author: John Wills

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