Despite a lot of talk about creating jobs and increasing family incomes, most of what we’ve seen at the Iowa Statehouse this session is a partisan agenda that ignores the best interests of hard-working Iowans.
Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds promised to create 200,000 jobs in five years. After more than six years, Iowa has gained fewer than 126,000 jobs, which is slower than the rate of job growth in the country as a whole.
Now, Republican legislators are moving forward with initiatives that will lead to job losses, lower incomes and fewer opportunities—ultimately making Iowa a less desirable place to live and work.
The 2017 session has been marked by efforts to:
Rush through a collective bargaining law (HF 291) that directly hurts 185,000 family budgets and will undermine the local economy where they live and shop.
Cut workers compensation owed to Iowans injured on the job (SSB 1170).
Stop local governments from voluntarily entering into agreements with local contractors—agreements that ensure good-paying jobs, quality work and cost-effective projects (SSB 1145).
Drive down construction wages in rural areas, bring in out-of-state workers to do Iowa jobs, and open the door to building Iowa roads and bridges with materials imported from China and other countries (SF 184).
Bypass coupling with federal tax code changes that would help small businesses, farmers, teachers and college students.
Weaken the rights of thousands of Iowans by making it more difficult for them to vote in elections (HSB 93/SSB 1163).
Slash to budgets of community colleges and public services in the middle of the year, causing job losses and harm to opportunities and services Iowans count on (SF 130).
Lower wages for 85,000 hard-working Iowans and prevent local governments from having strong civil rights enforcement (HF295).
Increase in funding for local schools by so little that doesn’t keep up with inflation, let alone make up for years of unmet needs (SF 166). School superintendents say this will cause teacher layoffs and larger class sizes.
Continue the Medicaid privatization mess that has dramatically increased costs to taxpayers, forced businesses to close and hurt the health care of thousands of vulnerable Iowans.
FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYERS CAN INVEST IN THEIR FUTURE
Like many places around the country, Iowa’s potential first-time homebuyers continue to face challenges when they’re ready to make a purchase.
Rising household debt, credit concerns and high prices make saving for a down payment a major hurdle to home ownership. In 2009, 53 percent of all home sales in Iowa were to first-time homebuyers. By 2015, that had dropped to 41 percent.
A new bill (SSB 1056) would create a First-time Homebuyer Savings Program. The money a person contributes would go to a First-time Homebuyer Savings Account to help with a down payment and closing costs on a single-family, owner-occupied home in Iowa.
A first-time homebuyer (and parents or grandparents of a first-time homebuyer) would receive an income tax exemption for savings up to about $2,000 per year for up to 10 years, or $4,000 per year for two first-time homebuyers who file taxes jointly.
Of the 3,317 potential new first-time homebuyers who could participate in this program, it’s estimated that 166 households (5 percent) will purchase newly constructed homes, with the remaining 3,151 households buying existing housing.
These potential new first-time homebuyers are expected to pump an additional $6.2 million annually into the Iowa economy, as a result of additional spending associated with home ownership.
The First-time Homebuyer Savings Program could help thousands of Iowans become homeowners and provide a great boost to the Iowa economy.
TAKING AWAY LOCAL CONTROL ON CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
A new bill in the Iowa Senate would take away local decision making on construction bidding projects.
SSB 1145 bans all government entities, from the state level down to the city and school district level, from using Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) in publicly funded projects.
PLAs set terms for labor relations on construction projects. PLAs are discretionary tools used in the public and private sectors to manage complex and time-sensitive projects. PLAs determine wage rates, benefits and working conditions. Many agreements contain provisions that require using local workers and prevent work stoppages due to strikes or lockouts.
Under the new bill, the state is telling a city, for example, that a local construction project funded entirely by city taxpayers cannot not use a PLA to ensure the job gets done the way they want it.
Currently, Iowa’s law on construction bidding for government entities requires a bid to go to the lowest responsive, responsible bidder. A PLA is a pre-qualification to help government entities determine who is a responsible bidder.
In addition to banning PLAs, SSB 1145 prohibits government entities from requiring a potential bidder on a public improvement project to provide information that the bidder may deem confidential or proprietary. That means a government entity would no longer be able to ask for a safety record, tax compliance history, past bidding history or pending litigation—what’s often called a “quality assurance questionnaire.”
At a Statehouse hearing, Earl Agan of the Central Iowa Building & Construction Trades Council explained how PLAs helped rebuild flood-damaged Cedar Rapids in 2008. He told legislators that taking away local control would benefit out-of-state “bottom feeder” contractors who bid low but do shoddy work. You can see what he had to say in this video clip.
6 WAYS LIMITING COLLECTIVE BARGAINING HURTS IOWANS
Iowa’s new collective bargaining overhaul by Republican legislators and the Branstad-Reynolds Administration strips away the rights of our public workers. The extent of its negative impact will become evident with time. All Iowans will eventually see that:
This law is bad for Iowa’s economy, and really hurts rural Iowa. Many rural Iowa business owners—including farmers—count on outside public employment of a spouse to make ends meet. Limiting the voice of public workers in their wages and benefits hurts rural communities and local economies.
Cutting workers’ rights does not offer greater local control. The new law dictates what counties, cities and school boards cannot openly discuss with employee representatives. County supervisors and school boards passed resolutions against the new law, and many rushed through new contracts to avoid the immediate, negative impact of the law.
The new law does not exempt police, fire and other public safety employees. Police officers and firefighters who make up less than 30 percent of their employment group are not covered by the limited exclusions for public safety workers in the new law. In fact, the new law limits the definition of public safety employees so severely that corrections officers, university police and emergency medical service personnel do not qualify.
It creates “haves” and “have nots” in public employment. This new Iowa law has created classes of citizens and divided public workers by selecting few public employees for better workplace rights. The vast majority of Iowa’s public employees will be “have nots.”
It undermines our ability to offer quality public education. We already have a teacher shortage in Iowa. We will lose even more of our best and brightest by taking away their voice in determining the benefits and conditions of their employment. And the new law will make it harder to recruit new teachers.
It’s bad for all Iowa workers and their families. This new law does nothing to improve the lives of Iowa workers. Private sector employees have the federally-protected right to freely negotiate over benefits, wages, hours and working conditions. Communities that need and want qualified public workers will be left behind.
SCHOOL FUNDING SHOULD PROVIDE A GREAT EDUCATION TO ALL STUDENTS
Iowa’s approach to school funding has provided a strong foundation for the success of Iowa’s public schools and students, with the vision that every child is worth the same no matter where they live.
Overall, Iowa’s approach is fairly equitable compared to other states, but we need to make adjustments to improve how we allocate money to schools. SSB 1124 attempts to equalize the amount school districts receive per pupil and to make up for the extreme differences in transportation costs.
Cost per pupil
In the 1970s, the state adopted a funding formula to take some of the burden of supporting our schools off of local property taxpayers. In doing so, lawmakers set a cost per-pupil based on enrollment and expenditures.
SSB 1124 creates greater equity among school districts by increasing the statewide cost per pupil over 10 years. During implementation, school districts with costs above the statewide cost per pupil would receive state aid to phase out the need for property tax dollars. When fully implemented, the total cost to address the inequity should be about $86 million.
School transportation costs
Transportation costs can siphon off a lot of dollars that could be going to a student’s education in the classroom. There can be a really big difference in the amount of money it takes to bus students in a rural school district compared to a big-city school district. In Iowa, those costs to school districts range from a low of $30 per student to a high of $1,150 per student!