Eggs And Issues Enters State Policy Topics
Oskaloosa, Iowa – The bi-weekly Eggs & Issues hosted at Smokey Row in Oskaloosa has now welcomed the areas representatives to the State Capitol.
The coffee shop is home to many a political stop, and has played host to the event for several years now. Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt hosted the hour long question and answer session.
Senator Ken Rozenboom along with Representatives Guy Vander Linden and Larry Sheets, all Republicans, were in attendance.
Each member of the Iowa Legislature made opening comments to the gathered crowd of nearly 100 community members, who in turn, asked questions about issues important to them.
Rep. Larry Sheets was the first to make opening remarks on Saturday morning, with Senator Rozenboom second.
This session has been slow to start to this point, the first week was organizational in nature with events like the Condition of the State address taking up time during the first week, with a holiday and caucuses chopping down the second week to a two day week last week.
The funnel days have also been moved up by leadership in the house and senate. Funnel weeks are points in time when proposed bills have to make it out of committee in order to be consider on the floor this year. “We can hopefully get done in time,” said Rozenboom.
“Cleanup work on education reform, Medicaid expansion, mental health redesign,” are some of those subjects Rozenboom seeing coming up yet this year.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past 3 years in terms of the fiscal situation,” said Rep. Guy Vander Linden. “We inherited a 900 million dollar deficit and now we have a 900 million dollar pot of money frankly I think represents over taxation of Iowan’s, but we’re working on putting that to good use.”
“I come here to find out what the issues are,” Vander Linden told the gathered crowd. “Please bring those issues to our attention.”
Larry Linsley of Oskaloosa asked about a potential gas tax increase. “There has been a proposal to take some of the alleged surplus, of the state money, a one-time deal, into the road use fund. You guys want to make any comment on that?”
“I don’t think a one-time use of money would become a one-time use of money if there’s not something else planned for the road tax,” said Sheets. “My thinking is, is that the amount of money we are presently getting from our road tax which is expressed in pennies per gallon, that part should be made a percentage and be tax neutral so that whatever the percentage is, is the same we get from the tax now.”
“With that, if we had a percentage on the road tax, then we could spend one-time money and inflation would take care of the problem after that,” Sheets told those gathered. “If we had such a thing 29 years ago, we wouldn’t be worried about the road use [tax] now.”
Vander Linden then took this opportunity to address the question. “Those of you who have been coming here regularly since I’ve been in office, kick-back and relax because you’ve heard most of this speech before.”
“I agree with Larry, most of us agree we need to do something to fix the roads and there are currently two bills, one in the Senate and one in the House that would provide funds to fix the roads. The one in the Senate would take, I believe, two percent off of all incoming revenue, move it into the road use fund and fix the roads. The one in the House would take one half of one percent of sales tax, move it into the road use fund and fix the roads,” Vander Linden explained of the two bills.
“I can support either one of those, because they are taking money that is already being paid in taxes by Iowans, to fix the roads. It’s saying that roads are a priority, over some other spending that we’re doing and that’s exactly the way I feel. I do not think that we should raise a tax on Iowan’s, who are already over taxed, to fix the roads when all we have to do is set the priorities.”
Vander Linden then added that he prefers the House bill “because it would be constitutionally protected. It is a proposed constitutional amendment.”
Vander Linden said that he could also support raising the gas tax, but in turn lowering a tax so that overall the taxpayer wouldn’t carry a larger tax bill. “Simply turning to the taxpayer every time we have another expense is not the way I think we ought to be doing it,” Vander Linden said in closing.
“I’m not gonna beat a dead horse,” Rozenboom said as he took his turn to discuss the issue.
Rozenboom said the truth of the matter on the subject is that with a majority of Iowan’s opposed to a gas tax hike, there will likely be no change, especially in the middle of an election year.
Rozenboom then said he was glad that new ideas on funding road repairs has started to turn up. “I’m willing to listen to those. I especially want to listen to the idea of going to an excise tax, which is another name for a sales tax.”
Rozenboom explained that as the price per gallon continues to climb, there is more potential revenue because of the percentage base of the tax. “When fuel prices go down, history proves that people drive more, so that hopefully leaves your revenue stream pretty much intact.”
“I don’t think anything’s going to happen this year, but I think we’re slowly but surely making some progress,” Rozenboom said in closing on that question.
This type of question and answer session continued for the remainder of the hour-long event.
All Mahaska County residents are encouraged to attend Eggs & Issues, with the next one being February 8th, at 8:30 am at Smokey Row in Oskaloosa.