Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) was one of two members of the Iowa Senate to vote against extending SAVE. Zaun was joined by Sen. Jake Chapman (R-Adel).
“I have to speak tonight,” Zaun said on the floor. “I philosophically disagree with what we’re about to do. I just think the world of Sen. (Dan) Dawson (R-Council Bluffs) and appreciate his hard work and it certainly is a step forward in regards to the last amendment we just adopted.
“Tonight’s tax night. We’re talking about taxes. We did a property tax bill, that was a good first step. There is not one issue that I’ve been called about this session more than taxes — in particular, property taxes.”
Zaun said he’s being told voters are losing faith in legislators. He’s hearing that legislators are addicted to taxes.
“Tax, tax, tax. Everywhere you go,” he said. “You wonder why people don’t trust politicians. I don’t know what more we can do for education and I would like anyone in this room, and I’d love them to be able to tell me exactly how much money public schools need in the state of Iowa. What does it need to be?”
Zaun said the legislature passed a 2.1 percent increase. He asked if it needed to be 10 percent or 20 percent.
“What do you all want? What does everybody in the chamber want?” he asked. “What would be the right amount that would satisfy education in the state of Iowa. I’ve asked that in my forums, I could never get an answer.”
Zaun said he was in Des Moines when SAVE started.
“I supported it back then because we had the school districts, administrators, school boards on their hands and knees begging for 20 years,” Zaun said. “‘That’s all we need to fix our schools. That’s all.’ The promise we made to the taxpayers then was it’s just going to be 20 years.
“Why don’t people trust politicians? Because they lie. They break their promises.”
The state, he said, spends every dollar it gets in.
“There is no business out there that spends what they receive,” he said.
Ten years into SAVE the state is already being asked for a 20-year extension.
“We’re breaking promises,” Zaun said.
He said he’s frustrated with schools because the money given to them from the state is never enough. Zaun shared information that said in each classroom, there’s about $251,000 for expenses. The average salary for a teacher is $53,408. Figuring in brick and mortar, benefits, utilities and it’s another $35,682 per classroom.
“There’s $162,000 left over,” Zaun said. “We don’t know where that money goes.”
Zaun said the problem isn’t teachers, noting Iowa has the best teachers. But earlier this session he had a bill to limit what administrative costs could be in education.
“Why would I do that,” he asked.
Zaun shared information that said from 1992-2015, there was a 3 percent increase in students, a 14 percent increase in teachers and a 29 percent increase in administrative costs in Iowa according to the federal Department of Education.
“Well, I bet our student performance numbers are really up,” he said. “We’ve really invested.”
But, he said, Iowa is 25th in math, 12th in reading and 17th in science.
“Guess what, nationally no one spends more money on education in the United States of America,” Zaun said.
Administrators in the West Des Moines schools receive an annuity, a travel expense, a dues expense, a cadillac health insurance plan, paid vacation, paid holidays and a cell phone allowance.
“That’s where our money is going,” Zaun said. “I just get sick and tired of our priorities around here. Is there anyone that’ll stand up for the taxpayer around here? This is a $19 billion increase.”
Zaun said SAVE has been abused. He talked about Valley Stadium in West Des Moines. Johnston just paid for an incredible softball and baseball facility, he said.
“It was paid for by SAVE dollars,” he said. “They even went as far to limit the amount of wind in the stadium so they dug a big hole so it’s a bowl. This is why it’s frustrating to me.”
He talked about the state’s priorities.
“Everybody got excited about felons’ voting. We care more about robbers and rapists and drunk drivers,” he said. “And expanding gambling down here. You think Iowans really want this stuff? We’ve come up with a mental health plan. How about we do an amendment where we take SAVE dollars and put them into mental health funding? We’ve got schools talking to us about that all the time and it’s a real problem; especially if you are a parent and you’ve got to wait in the Emergency Room, which I’ve done. And then they send them out. We do a terrible job with mental health down here.”
Some schools, Zaun said. are not responsible with their money.
“This is not tax relief,” he said. “This is a regressive tax that we’re going to continue on. It’s a tax after a tax after a tax. As I mentioned before, people are getting sick and tired, they’re up to here with taxes. And here we are, they’re just going to do this haphazardly — just give them another 20 years. Another $19 billion increase on taxpayers in the state of Iowa.”
Senators Zach Nunn (R-Altoona), Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton), Chris Cournoyer (R-LeClaire) spoke in favor of the bill. Nunn cited safety and security measures that SAVE money can be used for. Sinclair talked about routine maintenance that is necessary for schools. Cournoyer talked about being a former school board member and the reasons SAVE is necessary.
The point was made that 20 percent of the money generated from SAVE comes from folks from out of the state who visit Iowa.
If SAVE did not exist, then its absence would result in increased property taxes, according to its supporters.
SAVE received little resistance in both chambers. Only Representatives Skyler Wheeler (R-Orange City), Jeff Shipley (R-Fairfield) and Phil Thompson (R-Jefferson) voted against it.
The bill that passed the Senate was amended to increase property tax relief from 15 percent to 30 percent.