Kudos to the Iowa legislature. Future Iowans will look back on the 2013 session as one that made some important and significant changes in Iowa. From education reform to property tax relief, this legislature did the heavy lifting needed to make a difference. Was everything they passed perfect? That depends upon who you ask, but the fact that they were able to accomplish these things while being a split-controlled legislature makes their accomplishment all the more remarkable. This is a group that truly understands to govern well, you need to compromise. This legislature should be held up as the model for how civic, civil (for the most part) government is supposed to work for the people. Neither party got everything they wanted from the legislation and a lot of their constituents aren’t 100 percent happy with the outcomes. But when you stand back and focus on the big picture, that is probably a good thing for Iowa..
Here’s a rundown of the significant accomplishments:
- Passed the largest tax cut in Iowa history – close to $400 million when fully implemented
- Provides permanent property tax relief – Commercial and industrial properties will be assessed at 95 percent of valuation retroactive to Jan.1, then at 90 percent starting on Jan. 1, 2014
- Provides about $90 million in annual income tax savings to Iowa taxpayers — The overall tax relief plan also proposes to double the earned income tax credit for lower-income working families – a priority of legislative Democrats — from the current 7 percent to 14 percent in tax year 2013 and then to 15 percent in tax year 2014.
- Prevents a shift of the tax burden to other classes of property
- Caps at 3 percent growth for agricultural/residential property classes
- Fully funds local property tax credits in fiscal 2014 with an extra $33 million
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- Boosts minimum starting teacher pay from $28,000 to $33,500.
- Creates new career ladders for teachers that school districts can adopt in order to receive additional per pupil funding from the state of roughly $300.
- Creates new homeschooling provisions that allow home-school parents to teach driver’s education and teach up to four non-related children in their classroom
- Creates a council to study and recommend a new statewide teacher and administrator evaluation system
- Sets per pupil student aid (also called allowable growth) in a 2-2-4 formula for the next two years. That’s 2 percent added to the base plus a one-time payment equal to 2 percent for next school year and a 4 percent increase in fiscal year 2015.
Expanded health care:
- Iowa will accept federal funding to expand health care to low-income residents
- Residents up to 100 percent of the federal poverty line — $11,490 for an individual or $19,530 for a family of three, for example — will receive the same benefits as state employees, and those premiums will be paid for entirely by federal Medicaid dollars
- Residents between 101 percent and 138 percent of the poverty line will receive insurance from exchanges created by the new federal health care law. Those residents’ premiums will be paid for with Medicaid funds in the first year, and also in ensuing years provided they accomplish physicians’ directives such as wellness check-ups and diet counseling
- If a person does not accomplish those objectives, he or she must pay a portion of the premium up to 2 percent of household income
- Commits $2 million for medical residency programs in Iowa
- Provides $2 million to launch the Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program
Those are just some of the highlights. In an era when hyper-partisanship has taken root in our nation’s capital and in many state houses across the country it is refreshing to see that in Iowa, our lawmakers decided to set partisanship aside to get things done. The session wasn’t without its share of political bickering and showmanship, but when push came to shove, this legislature stepped up. The next time you see one of our local representatives, thank them for doing their job the way it was meant to be done.