Thursday, February 12, 2009

Week 5 Wrap-up

This week at the Capitol, legislators dealt with increased taxes and possibly changing labor laws.
The Dr. Shopping bill was rushed out of committee this week and if passed would give workers injured on the job the ability to visit multiple doctors until they receive their desired diagnosis. This will result in a 14% increase in the cost in workers compensation insurance to employers in Iowa. This bill will have huge ramifications on schools and businesses in this state. It will put undue strain on the taxpayer and as a result, employers could potentially reduce benefits and institute layoffs. Injured workers already have many options – we don’t need to fix a system that is not broken.

Also on the horizon is the gas tax. Democrats in the House and Senate filed bills to raise the tax by 4 cents upon the Governor’s signing and another 4 cents by January 1, 2010. This tax is designed to improve roads and tax people traveling through the state, but Iowans already contribute to the Road Use Tax Fund, an increased license fee that passed last year. This bill has been controversial and I will be sure to keep you updated on it.

Finally, in an effort to rid the state of inefficiency, a Democrat proposal was introduced in the Senate that would effectively close every rural school in Iowa with 750 pupils or less. Taking away local control of the issue and forced consolidation is not the answer to inefficiency. Rural schools are top performers in education in Iowa and the lifeblood of the state.

On a lighter note, the 13th Annual Child Congress has been meeting in Des Moines this week. Today, they were at the Capitol, meeting with legislators and talking about early childhood care and programs. Pictured at left are Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley, Republican Whip Steve Kettering and Senator James Seymour with representative from early childhood education programs.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In Honor of Valentine’s Day Coming Up

Seeing red all over the Capitol

Red eye – the color of staff’s eyes after late night debate
Red headed stepchild in Iowa – property taxes
Red Red Wine – what the Republican staffers will want to drink after the session is over
Red State – what Iowa really really wants to be again
Red Lighted – all Republican budget ideas
Red Sox – Marshall’s license plate
Red Hot Issue – selling the Lottery
Red Handed – Democrats were caught scooping money out of the cookie jar
Orville REDenbacher – official sponsor of late night snacks at the Capitol
Red Tape – Democrats have bought a bunch of new rolls ready to wrap around businesses in this state
Red Flags – what went up when we read the Governor’s budget
Red Herring – the Dove Hunting bill to take attention away from the budget
Red Carpet – being rolled out by Democrats for their union thugs in Iowa
Parting the Red Sea – what Democrats think Obama will do to fix their spending habits
Red Tag Sale – what Iowa will have to hold thanks to the budget problem
Red Roof Inn – the only hotel that Iowans can afford after Democrats spent all their money
Red Letter Day – today: 60 degrees and sunny in February

Monday, February 9, 2009

Does Iowa Really Need a Gas Tax?

Senator Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) did some great research on the gas tax in Iowa. He has put it all together and posted it on his website: We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

Iowa’s gas tax is 22 cents per gallon. Currently, Iowa ranks 32nd in total state tax on gasoline. Our state neighbors are as follows:
Missouri 17.6 cents per gallon
South Dakota 24 cents per gallon
Minnesota 25.6 cents per gallon
Nebraska 26.9 cents per gallon
Wisconsin 32.9 cents per gallon
(Total state taxes including other taxes applied to fuel such as sales tax)

The Iowa Democrat party is deliberating about adding 10-12 cents per gallon. If this were to occur, Iowa would jump to one of the top 10 highest states in the nation for gas tax. (dime increase would raise $220 million annually)

What has been done so far?
The Iowa Legislature in the 2007-2008 session realized a possible funding shortage and passed a bill called “Time 21” This legislation called for increasing license fees on all motorized vehicles to offset this shortfall. Its goal was to achieve an extra $200 million in funds annually by 2012. (17.5% increase over 2008 amount)
This will be a significant fee increase for each vehicle owner. ($20-$60) We have not gone an entire year under this new regulation so no one is sure how much of an increase this will have to the DOT. The question arises do we need even more tax money for road building and rebuilding?

What is most likely to occur in 2009?
The federal government is looking to pass an $817 billion dollar stimulus package; Iowa is in line for approximately $1.3 billion of this money. The governor along with Senator Harkin has stated that this money will go toward infrastructure, specifically road infrastructure. If this occurs, the state roads will see some significant improvements, and the DOT short-fall will be immediately wiped out!

Also, the governor is requesting a $700 million dollar bonding package for infrastructure, again, most of this money would go toward new roads or the rebuilding of current roads. Again, this would wipe out the funding shortage.

Finally, the federal government is also talking about a 20 cent per gallon gas tax increase. A portion of this money from the federal government would go back to the state for its roads projects. (Payment to the RUT fund could be over $225 million of additional dollars per year) Another, way to wipe out the funding short-fall.

Remember, if one of these items would occur, Time 21 funding will be more than sufficient to keep up with road projects going forward.

You can read the full article on his blog, just visit his web site. Thank you , Senator Feenstra!