Capitol Comments - Week 6 in the Iowa Senate Print
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Written by Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck   
Friday, 18 February 2011 16:46

After six weeks of session, the Iowa Senate started debating this week.  Two bills set the posturing stage and had more meaning in messaging than actual content of the legislation.  House File 45 was approved by the Iowa House in the second week of session with a projected cut in state spending of $500 million over three years.  This same bill was passed out of the Senate on Thursday with a projected cut in spending of $10 million over a three year period.  Though many believe this bill is destined for a conference committee showdown, it is more likely the bill is done.  Think of this bill as a form of messaging between the Republican majority in the House and the Democratic majority in the Senate and how they perceive each other’s goals.  True government spending appears in appropriations bills.  Both sides understand a zero line item in House File 45 doesn’t limit actual funding of a program in May.

The second posturing bill came in the establishment of allowable growth for education spending.  After the House previously approved zero percent allowable growth the Senate on Wednesday passed allowable growth at 2%.  Knowing the establishment of an allowable growth rate at any percent in February is superficial to the actual appropriation which the legislature makes in May I asked the Senate Appropriations Chair to explain how we plan to fund education this year at any level. My line of questioning was shut down by the Senate President citing, the state’s future ability to pay is irrelevant to the establishment of a promise to pay today.  This idea makes complete sense, only when you don’t think about it.  Though this bill is destined for a conference committee showdown, only through appropriations will we see how much the state picks up and how much falls on local property taxpayers.

The Senate moved in a positive direction in debate Thursday afternoon when we unanimously approved Senate File 209 which called for the full coupling of the Iowa Tax Code with the Federal Tax Code.  This bill allows Iowa taxpayers to deduct items on their state income tax filings similar to their federal filings. Think of it as a nearly $200 million savings to taxpayers.  Though it does not take effect until you do your taxes next year, it is still a positive move for keeping more money in your hands.

On a side note, the buzz has started over redistricting.  The conference board members are set, census data is out and maps will soon be drawn.  I have not grown as curious or apprehensive about changes as many of my colleagues.  I have no doubt I may lose half my district or even more.  Be proud in the fact Iowa is an exemplar in setting districts; politicians don’t get to make this decision.

Shawn Hamerlinck
State Senate District 42