State Issues from Sands (4/10/14)

Rep. Tom Sands · Wednesday, April 16, 2014
News from the Hill…

There seems to be a little more motivation this week to wrap up the legislative work for the year and go home. Some of us have full-time jobs that people are expecting us to be back to work for. Some are farmers and they are anxiously watching the soil temperature rise and will be chomping at the bit to get home and into the fields. Then there are the others, that either are retired or don’t have any other job. They are not quite as motivated, but soon will be when the per diem runs out on April 22. Sooner or later everybody will be motivated to wrap things up for the year and go home. Until then, there is much to do and passing a budget is a must do before we can adjourn for the year. Unlike the federal government the state cannot print money, nor should we be able to. Therefore, we must pass a budget that is balanced, does not spend more than we take in, is fiscally responsible and sustainable, receives at least 51 votes in the Iowa House, at least 26 votes in the Iowa Senate and then be signed by Governor Branstad. This year Iowa’s General Fund Budget, which is made up of Education Budget, Human Resources Budget, Justice Systems Budget, Administration & Regulation Budget, Agriculture & Natural Resources Budget, Economic Development Budget, Transportation, Infrastructure & Capitals Budget and Standings. The total General Fund Budget should end up just fewer than seven billion dollars. There have been some tough financial decisions made in the last four years, but our fiscal house is in order because of those tough decisions. We will end up with our reserves full, which is 10 percent of the budget, some one time revenue which will be a difference of opinion on what to do with some of that money. House Republicans want to take some of that money and buy down the debt that the Culver administration saddled us with. That is one of the most fiscally responsible things to do with your tax dollars. To be very frank, the money belongs to the taxpayers of Iowa, not the government. It is merely our responsibility to be good stewards of your money. Now that’s a novel idea that needs to spread.

Adoption Tax Credit…

One of the bills we passed out of the Ways and Means Committee this week was HSB 686. This bill creates a refundable income tax credit equal to qualified adoption expenses up to $2,500. The main idea behind this bill is very simple, but could have a major positive impact on a child’s life. I am pro-life, I believe life starts at conception and each life is worth saving. The cold, hard facts are some children are in need of adoption. Anything we can do to encourage just one more child to be adopted into a loving family and have the chance to live is worth saving. I am proud to be pro-life, but that is not enough. It is just as important to give a child the possibility of a quality life also.

TIF Reform…

So far this year I have only assigned myself to two bills in the Ways and Means Committee, but one of those bills was HSB 675. This bill continues to reform the uses of Tax Increment Financing (TIF), by protecting the integrity of the reasons TIF were introduced. Over the years some local governments, but certainly not all, have over used and abused the uses of TIF. While some may gain from those abuses, others have had to pay. In very simplistic terms, TIF districts are established to help generate growth. In those districts for a set period of time the new growth in tax revenue goes to one entity to help pay off the debt for the development. Once the debt is paid off then the new growth (increment) is to be released so all local governments receive their property tax dollars. Too many have not released the increment and have continued to retain all or portions of the growth of property taxes even if the debt has been paid off. This cost local property tax payers lots of money and the taxpayers of Iowa spent forty-nine million dollars last year just to backfill the loss of revenue for school districts because of TIF districts. This forty-nine million was not additional money for the school districts, it just simply replaces what they lost due to TIF districts.
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