The 2013 Legislature is in overtime. While the Iowa House and Senate have agreed on how much to spend, we still need to hammer out the final details of a balanced state budget that makes smart investments in Iowa's future.
The path to a dynamic economy is to strengthen and grow Iowa's middle class. To help achieve that goal, here are five things we're fighting for as we wrap up this session's work:
1. Sufficient funding for K-12 schools. The Senate voted last year to set funding for the 2013-14 school year. Because education is so important to Iowans, state law has long required this advance planning. Unfortunately, other lawmakers broke with almost 40 years of sound legislative practice and refused to approve local school funding. As a result, Iowa teachers are now getting pink slips. It's time to end the political games tying up the money our schools rely on.
State Senator Steve Sodders
2. Easing Iowa's shortage of skilled workers. State and local business leaders say they need more employees with the training to fill key positions. We know that our excellent community colleges can help solve this problem. That's where Iowans go to get a GED, learn basic skills and earn industry-recognized certificates in welding, health care, technology and other areas. There is bipartisan agreement that we must help low-skilled Iowans become the high-skilled workers Iowa businesses need.
3. Expanded access to health care. Iowans with health insurance pay about a billion dollars a year in increased health care costs to help those who can't afford insurance. These are working Iowans whose employers don't provide insurance and whose paychecks aren't large enough to cover it themselves. AARP, the Iowa Catholic Conference and American Cancer Society say expanding Medicaid is the answer. Others want Iowa taxpayers to pay more for a different approach that covers fewer people.
4. Cutting taxes for local businesses. Small and Main Street businesses are Iowa's job creators. We can boost our economy by lowering their commercial property taxes. The plan I support will do just that without increasing residential taxes or hurting essential public services.
5. Cutting taxes for working Iowans. We can help low-income families work their way out of poverty by increasing the state's Earned Income Tax Credit. It's an effective anti-poverty program that also boosts the economy when working families spend those dollars locally on food, gas, car repairs, medical bills and other necessities.
These five efforts to grow Iowa's middle class are among the priorities that constituents have said are most important. Thank you to all who shared their concerns and suggestions. Rest assured, I'll keep fighting for you until the gavel falls on the 2013 session.