During the first legislative coffee session Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Bricker Room of Shenandoah’s Safety Center, discussion over Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposed 1-cent sales tax increase was at the top of the list.
During her Condition of the State address, Reynolds called for state lawmakers to add 1-cent to the state’s sales tax as part of a proposal called “Invest in Iowa” initiative. A portion of the revenue from the sales tax increase would go toward water quality programs and the state’s mental health system.
Reynold’s proposal includes an income tax cut to offset the sales tax increase and a plan for property tax reduction.
“The governor’s proposal basically was accredited on a 1-cent sales tax increase,” said State Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, from the 24th District. “She made several changes within her proposal transferring things off of the general fund budget and then funding them with some Iowa dollars. We’ll continue to look at that but at this point and time, the House is committed to basically working on a proposal of the budget that maintains the funding streams and priorities without relying on the new 1-cent sales tax.”
Dolecheck said there are a lot of moving parts.
“Within that proposal, we’ll be looking at income tax decreases, property tax and those type of things so it’s going to be very complicated,” he said. “I think there’s a good possibility that that may happen but we decided that there were too many moving parts to try and predicate a budget based solely on that. So were going to move forward with a budget that spends approximately like it did last year with hopefully around 98% of expected revenue. So we have the ability to be able to fund our priorities.”
Iowa State 12th District Senator Mark Costello said a lot of it needs to go toward some of the water quality initiatives more than what the fund currently does so “We’ll look at how that fund will be distributed.”
Bob Benton of Tabor said if the 1-cent sales tax does go through that 3/8 of that will go toward clean water and conservation, and a portion will fund the Resources Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP).
In other items…
Dolecheck said the state is looking into extra bonding capacity in school resource officers. Hiring a resource officer is an issue the Shenandoah Community School District is working on.
“I am reluctant in my position to put more burden on property taxpayers,” said Dolecheck.” I would rather the state if they could fund those mental health issues.”
Dolecheck said the state might look at funding this through the cash reserve levy.
“It’s something we’re definitely looking at,” said Dolecheck.” It’s coming up with the money and assessing priorities.”
Dolecheck said it is important for rural school districts to have resource officers address concerns.
“They seem to be continually growing with our school districts and across the state in all areas,” said Dolecheck.” We need to address that, and it’s high on the governor’s priority list, and it’s high on my priority list as well.”
Sherri Clark, Director of Nishna Production Inc., spoke on current wages for direct caregivers for people with disabilities.
“I’m aware that the governor has placed in her budget some extra money to go towards Medicaid to go specifically to our direct caregivers,” said Clark. “Unfortunately, the average wage paid to those people in rural Iowa is $10.94 an hour.”
Clark said the state association and the Iowa association of community providers have done a survey of providers across the state and the increase seen is not enough.
“We really appreciate what the governor has done but we need to try and get that number up higher,” said Clark.
Clark said it is difficult to hire quality people to take care of people with disabilities. These employees’ duties include helping with personal hygiene. “So think about the $10.94 an hour wage for people when there doing that kind of work, and it’s very, very important,” said Clark. “They’re the most important people that we employ.”
Clark said they are asking as providers to get a 10% increase in their reimbursement rates, which she said are capped by Medicaid.
“The only way we as providers will get extra money is if you guys support an appropriation in the Medicaid world,” said Clark.” That 10% reimbursement rate increase 75% going directly to support our direct care staff. It’s just crucial.”
Costello replied to Clark’s concerns.
“I was able to get another million dollars into that last year,” said Costello. “Which is not really enough but it was a little bit of a help. The governor put $3.3 million in right now.”
Costello said he had spoken with one of the governor’s policy directors in hopes of increasing that amount.