With the 2019 legislative session in its final hours, lawmakers are pushing hard to complete the state budget for next fiscal year. Total spending has been agreed to, and now we are putting in the details.
The final budget will spend $7.643 billion dollars, which is an increase over last year, and our reserve accounts are full. Every individual budget area saw an increase which is better than the past several years.
While this is a lot of money, it is 97.39% of ongoing revenue, so we are still being cautious and not spending more than we take in.
Iowa’s economy is in pretty good shape, but there are still uncertainties such as the weather and world and national events that could derail our growth.
Our goal is to fund our priorities but avoid a situation where we have to make a de-appropriation the following year. I believe this budget accomplishes our goals.
Since this will most likely be the final newsletter for this session, I thought I would mention a few bills that passed both chambers in the closing days.
Remember, the Governor has the final say. She can either sign a bill or veto it. Plus, she has line-item veto power when it comes to budget bills, so it will probably be another month before we know for sure what survived.
The Senate finally debated and passed the SAVE bill. This is an extension of the statewide penny sales tax for school infrastructure. The House passed the bill earlier in the session. The tax is now extended through 2051, and will also provide property tax relief along with school infrastructure funding.
This is a good bill, and I supported it. I am confident the Governor will sign it.
Another bill which drew a lot of attention this year deals with sports betting. The bill that passed both the House and Senate authorizes the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to establish rules for betting on professional, collegiate and international sporting events.
It excludes some events such as the minor leagues and in-state college team players. It also legalizes fantasy sports contests and internet fantasy sports betting. The legal age will be 21, and there will be a tax of 6.75%.
This was a difficult vote for me, but I did support it because people are already doing it, and this way, the state can at least regulate the activity.
The House and Senate have both passed a watered-down property tax reform bill which will bring more transparency to the local government budgeting process. If a city or county’s tax revenue will be increased more than 2%, a public hearing must be held and two-thirds of the board must approve the increase.
This bill does not include schools, and contrary to what opponents claimed, it does not affect the state’s retirement program, IPERS.
In fact, the IPERS Board issued a statement Thursday afternoon which read, “This bill does not alter the employer’s obligation to pay the employer portion of IPERS’ contributions as established under Iowa law. This bill does not affect a member’s or a retiree’s pension.”
I supported this bill, which now heads to the Governor’s desk.
There are several bills yet to be debated before we adjourn, including the $2 billion Human Services budget. Not everything that everyone wanted made it to the Governor this year. Some legislation needs more work and will have to wait until next session, but overall, I believe we had a good year.
As always, it is our honor and privilege to serve as your Representative in Des Moines, and I thank you for your input and support.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or home at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.
My home address is P. O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at [email protected]