State Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center )says the 2013 session of the Iowa Legislature took a comprehensive approach towards strengthening and expanding Iowa's middle class.
"Iowa is taking significant steps forward in jobs, education, health care, and lower taxes," said Sodders. "We've approved a record investment in helping Iowa workers upgrade their skills; the biggest property tax cut in state history; action to improve K12 student achievement; and affordable health insurance for 150,000 working Iowans."
Sodders noted that, once again, the first session after a general election turned out to be especially productive.
State Senator Steve Sodders
"In 2012, voters made it clear that they wanted action on bread-and-butter issues," said Sodders. "We worked to fix Iowa's shortage of skilled workers, to help small and Main Street businesses grow, and support our local schools."
Sodders provided a short summary of the highlights of the 2013 session:
The largest investment ever in Iowa's community colleges, including Iowa Valley Community College and Hawkeye Community College. To ease the skilled worker shortage holding back Iowa's economy, lawmakers agreed to make the biggest investment ever in Iowa's community colleges. A total of $34.3 million will help Iowans earn the skills needed to fill existing job openings.
State funding will make sure higher education in Iowa remains affordable. Tuition will not increase at Iowa's state universities for the first time in 30 years.
The new Main Street business property tax credit reduces commercial property taxes-while helping small businesses the most-without shifting the burden to residential property owners or sacrificing local schools and services.
Low-income working Iowa families, home to almost 40 percent of Iowa children, will receive a tax cut thanks to an increase in the Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit from 7 percent to 15 percent of the federal credit.
Job creation efforts include additional financial incentives and tax credits for economic development; additional efforts by state universities on technology commercialization, marketing, and entrepreneurship; expanded historic tax credits; and a tax credit for beginning farmers.
Local schools will benefit from a 4 percent increase in basic state support beginning this July 1, and another 4 percent increase beginning in July of 2014. State support to promote early reading and small class sizes through third-grade will continue. New education reforms will increase standards, improve teaching, and encourage innovation.
The state budget was balanced without raising taxes. Iowa is expected to have a budget surplus of about $647 million when this fiscal year ends on June 30. We also have $622 million in our reserve funds, the largest amount in state history.
Thanks to a health care compromise that created the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, 150,000 working Iowans will finally be able to go to a doctor in their community when needed.
No legislative session has done more to clean up Iowa's water: $22 million will fund new initiatives, including a Iowa Nutrient Research Center to keep high levels of nutrients from impairing our waterways. In addition, REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) will receive $16 million, the most ever.
"I want to thank the people from my district who took the time to contact me during the session. Your ideas, suggestions and priorities are reflected in many of the bills that made it to the governor's desk," said Sodders.