Senator McCoy highlights unfinished business as session nears the end.
WHERE IS THE BUDGET?
The 2018 session of the Iowa Legislature is scheduled to end on April 17. Unfortunately, legislators have yet to see a budget proposal for next year, and House and Senate leaders continue to push conflicting tax proposals that would make an even bigger mess of state finances.
When the budget is put together behind closed doors, Iowans don’t know how it will affect them. That’s not good government, and it’s not right.
This haphazard approach to state finances and secret budget negotiations are irresponsible. Iowans deserve better leadership, transparency and accountability for their hard-earned tax dollars.
I continue to speak up for Putting Iowans First. That means a state budget focused on better jobs, great educational opportunities, thriving communities and making Iowa the best place to live.
SUPPORTING IOWA FARMERS & BUSINESSES
Iowa farmers and businesses could be deeply affected by a trade war ignited by President Trump’s recent threats to impose tariffs on steel and other products from China.
China is one of the top five importers of Iowa manufactured goods and value-added agriculture products. Our state exported $560 million in goods to China in 2017.
VIDEO: Senator Bolkcom on federal decisions that are driving down Iowa’s farm economy.
The President has ordered a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. He has also announced proposed tariffs on Chinese technology.
China has responded in kind, proposing a 15 to 25 percent tariff on most U.S. exports, including a 25 percent tariff on pork, corn and soybeans—key Iowa exports.
Responding to the concerns of my constituents, I have put my name on a letter to President Trump, urging him to consider the negative consequences on Iowa farmers, rural communities and those whose livelihood is threatened by a trade war with China.
VIDEO: Senator Hart asks legislators to sign a letter to President Trump, encouraging him to reconsider a trade strategy that will hurt Iowa farmers and our state's economy.
Table 1 shows key Iowa ag products for which China has proposed tariffs.
LOCAL OFFICIALS: BROKEN PROMISE RAISE TAXES, CUT SERVICES
Iowa farmers and homeowners face higher property taxes and cuts in local services if legislative Republicans end the state’s property tax backfill, according to a survey of local elected officials.
In 2013, the Legislature approved the largest property tax cut in Iowa history. At the same time, the law was changed to require the state to reimburse cities, counties and school districts for lost revenue that came from reducing property tax rates.
This year, proposals in the House and Senate (HSB 678, SF 2081) would end funding that the state agreed to pay them for those property tax decreases.
In the online survey completed by 478 school, county and city officials, 93 percent opposed ending or phasing out the backfill. Survey responses show that if the state ends reimbursements to local governments:
93 percent will raise property taxes on homeowners and farmers.
90 percent will cut services for local citizens.
76 percent will cut public safety, including police and fire.
School officials say they will have to:
Put more students in classrooms (29 percent).
Cut pay or benefits for teachers (24 percent).
Delay technology upgrades necessary for a 21st century education (23 percent).
You can find how much your school district, city and county will lose if the backfill is eliminated through a searchable list on the Iowa Senate Democrats website.
If you are concerned about the state taking back this $152 million commitment to property taxpayers and local governments, contact your legislators to let them know how this broken promise impacts you.
WE MUST DO MORE TO ENSURE EQUAL PAY
On April 10, America hit Equal Pay Day. That day marks how far into the new year the average woman works before her pay matches what men doing the same job earned the year before.
On average, women who work full time in the U.S. make 80 cents for every dollar paid to men doing the same job. That results in a typical loss of more than $10,000 per year for a working woman, or more than $400,000 over a 40-year career.
The wage gap is bigger in Iowa—Iowa women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes—and greater still for women of color in Iowa. A black woman makes 59 cents and a Latina makes 58 cents for every dollar a man earns.
VIDEO: Senator Petersen says equal pay reflects Iowa values.
Over the decades, women have made great gains in educational attainment and workforce participation, but unequal pay persists in most occupations (low-wage and high-wage). Women make up 48 percent of the Iowa workforce. That means almost half of working Iowans make less than others who do the same work.
Policies can help close the wage gap and improve economic security for all Iowans, such as:
Strengthening equal pay laws.
Increasing the minimum wage.
Ensuring high-quality, affordable child care.
Cracking down on discrimination against pregnant workers.
Improving access to affordable health care.
Protecting and strengthening collective bargaining.
BEES AND BUTTERFLIES BOOST IOWA CROPS AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Bees and butterflies are important pollinators for Iowa crops and other plants.
The North American monarch population has declined by more than 80 percent during the last 20 years, and bees are in danger due to diseases, chemicals and pests. But Iowans have ideas to improve their numbers.
This week, the Legislature approved HF 2371, which updates state regulations for honeybee hives on public property.
This will allow Iowa schools to enhance their gardens with hives and use them as teaching tools. Tending to hives and observing bee activity provides kids with lessons in biology, agriculture, ecology, nutrition and business. Despite their stingers, honeybees are docile, and with a little education, kids and bees can coexist in harmony.
Field and horticultural crops, home gardens and plants eaten by wildlife are dependent on bee pollination to produce their fruits, nuts and seeds. The economic value of honey bees as crop pollinators in Iowa has been estimated at $92 million annually. Iowa honey bees also produce about 4 million pounds of honey each year, valued at more than $8 million. Learn more from the Iowa Honey Producers Association.
With the state of Iowa falling entirely within the monarch’s northern breeding area, their recovery cannot succeed without us.
The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium is a group of 40 organizations, including agricultural and conservation associations, agribusiness and utility companies, universities, and county, state and federal agencies. They recently set a goal to establish 480,000 to 830,000 acres of monarch habitat by 2038 on ag land, in urban areas, along roadsides and other public land.
IOWA ROAD CONSTRUCTION SEASON RAMPS UP
April 9-13 is Work Zone Awareness Week. Work zones on our roadways require extra caution to navigate, especially because workers’ jobs often put them close to traffic.
From March through November, the Iowa Department of Transportation completes up to 500 construction projects, and maintenance garages often have additional short-term projects. Coupled with city and county projects, motorists can expect to see thousands of work zones as they travel the state this spring, summer and fall.
Don’t forget Iowa’s Move Over, Slow Down laws, which were expanded this year (HF 2304). They require drivers to change lanes or slow down when approaching a stationary emergency, tow or maintenance vehicles with flashing lights, and to yield the right of way to emergency vehicles with flashing lights or sirens.
Be alert, put away distractions and leave plenty of space between vehicles throughout the construction season. When hitting the road, check construction and driving conditions at