Area Legislators Talk About Upcoming Session
Oskaloosa, Iowa – The Iowa Legislative session is set to get underway on Monday, January 13th, and Oskaloosa area residents are once again preparing for Eggs and Issues and the chance to speak directly with their representatives.
This coming session is predicted to be a short one, with many politicians looking towards campaigning and the elections in November.
Rep. Guy Vander Linden (R) who serves House District 79, which includes Oskaloosa, agrees. “The conventional wisdom is…last year there was so much landmark legislation accomplished, this year there just isn’t much appetite for that. Plus, it being an election year, there’s every likelihood that people will start trying to demonstrate differences between themselves and potential opponents.”
Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R) who serves Senate District 40, which Oskaloosa is a part of also, see’s the upcoming session in a similar light. “I believe this year will be a year of modest accomplishment compared to last year. We still have a divided legislature, which will limit significant moves either to the right or to the left. There will likely be some grandstanding by some who aspire to higher office, or who wish to burnish their own resume’ in an election year. My goal will be the same as last year, and that is to continue to develop good working relationships with those in both parties and both houses.”
Even with that short session in mind, there are those like Rozenboom that are anxious to talk about things they view need to be addressed. “I am working on a couple of pieces of legislation that will tweak our Time of Transfer law and Rural Improvement Zones,” said Rozenboom. He goes on to say he will “continue to fight for smaller government, and continue to advocate for the unborn.”
Larry Sheets (R) represents the eastern portion of Mahaska County as part of District 80, and is looking to build upon his freshman year. He has expressed several topics that need to be addressed in the coming session.
Sheets wants to see a reduction in corporate income taxes “to make Iowa competitive with other states.”
Sheets would also like to see a rejection of the Federal Common Core Curriculum, and no automatic reduction in prison sentences for heinous capital crimes.
Another effort Sheets would like to see is to begin a convention of the state’s effort to control federal spending.
When it comes to education, most legislators see things being more stable than last year, but recognize there could possibly be a few tweaks made.
Sheets thought, “There will probably be an attempt by the education establishments to undo the freedom for home schoolers provided last session.”
Sen. Tim Kapucian (R) from Senate District 38, which Poweshiek County is a part of, added, “Education had a big year last year and, to be frank, I think we need to leave it alone for awhile to see if it bares fruit.”
He added that, ” We need to probably do some clean up in the code with the option of hours verses days to correct hours needed to count a full day in ‘early out’ situations.” Adding to that, he has heard talk of more funding for transportation in the geographically larger districts.
Rozenboom said he wasn’t a supporter of the education reform that was passed last year. “I believe we are just adding to the cost of education without fundamentally changing our education model. I hope I’m wrong.”
An increase in the gas tax has been a topic of discussion for the past couple of years, and our local legislators share their thoughts on a potential increase.
Sen. Kapucian shared his thought about a potential increase, “Infrastructure revenue continues to be a concern. However, once again an election year, and a raise in gas taxes would be a very heavy lift.”
He goes on to explain that a plan has been talked about that would take monies from the general fund and potentially place them in the Road Use Tax Fund.
Rep. Vander Linden also has heard of that idea, “There’s going to be several different proposals. I know I’ve seen one that says…let’s take a very small percentage of the sales tax and put it in the road use tax fund. There’s another that says…let’s take a percentage of revenue right off the top and put it in the road use tax fund. I could support either one of those, but I’m not going to vote to raise taxes on Iowan’s that are already over taxed.”
Vander Linden added, “I do not support an increase in the gas tax, I don’t think it will pass. Iowans are still against it. I can make several arguments about why not, but if we need to fix the roads, and oh by the way we have a surplus, which means we have already overtaxed Iowans, then why would we want to increase another tax? It just doesn’t make sense.”
Sen. Rozenboom shared his thoughts about a potential increase, “I have been reluctant to support any tax increase………it goes against my conservative nature. However, I will listen very carefully to suggestions to address our infrastructure needs because we do need to do something. I know there will be some new ideas to look at this year, including the idea to change from a per gallon tax to an excise tax on gas and diesel fuel. I value input from constituents on this issue!”
Rep. Sheets shared his idea on how to generate funds for the Road Use Tax Fund. ” At my last look, 60% of Iowans did not want a gas tax increase. We are supposed to be a representative government working for the people. The Iowa government has kicked this can down the road for a quarter century. The formula for disbursements from the road tax fund does not favor rural “Harvest to Market” roads. Urban areas benefit most. It is doubtful that that will change because rural Iowa is poorly represented in the Senate since the Senate is not regionally determined, but is proportional to population…making one of our branches redundant! If there is to be a road tax change, I would propose a “sales tax” on the wholesale fuel (before federal tax is applied) that provides exactly the same revenue at the date of enactment as the current tax provides. The funds would still be protected from misuse for other than road use. If inflation happens, the revenues go up. If prices go down, then taxes go down. What do you think the chances are for gas prices to go down in the long run?”
“Today, when fuel prices go up, people drive less. So then in today’s structure, the gas tax revenues go down. With the plan I propose, the revenue to the State would stabilize with volatile road usage.”
Eggs and Issues will start on Saturday, January 11th at 8:30 inside Smokey Row, on the west side of the square in Oskaloosa. This week will feature local issues with Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt, Mahaska County Supervisor Mike Vander Molen and Oskaloosa Schools Superintendent Russ Reiter fielding questions from those in attendance.
On January 25th, Rep. Guy Vander Linden, Rep. Larry Sheets and Sen. Ken Rozenboom will be on hand to answer questions from constituents. Eggs and Issues is every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month, through March 22nd.