Rozenboom Bringing Experience To Statehouse

Sen Ken Rozenboom talks about budgets and tax reform during Saturday's Egg's and Issues.

Sen Ken Rozenboom (file photo)

Oskaloosa, Iowa – Monday morning the gavel will drop on the 2019 Iowa Legislature, bringing to order this year’s session.

Rozenboom has been spending a significant amount of time listening to various groups of individuals, constituents across his district. “November and December are full of a lot of meetings with constituents that would like to speak with us and make their point of view be heard, which is great. That’s the way the system is supposed to work.”

In the coming hours before the session begins, tidying up those last minute chores at home were important, as Rozenboom won’t be home much now until May.

Rozenboom was the driving force behind Iowa’s water quality legislation, which passed last year from the Iowa House and passed the Iowa Senate in 2017.

Now that the bill is passed, and signed by the governor, the Iowa DNR and the Department of Agriculture to come before the committee and explain how they plan to implement the legislation. “That’s a lot of dollars. That’s 280 million dollars over the next 12 years, and I think Iowan’s want an accounting of that money and how it’s going to be spent. That process of oversight of that particular program really starts now.”

There remains a push to raise the sales tax to include conservation measures. “I’ve always kept an open mind on that. I suspect in this coming year that will be talked about more, and I’ll be analyzing what’s going on and seeing where we go from here.”

The biggest reason the legislature meets every year is to prepare a budget for state government.

Rozenboom says that the big picture look at the budget is different than the past two years. “The last two years we began the session by de-appropriating money, which means pulling money that was promised away from recipients part way through the year, and that’s not fun for anybody.”

“This year we are projected to have a budget surplus of around 130 million dollars. That’s a marked change from the last two years,” added Rozenboom. “And a very welcome change.”

The farm economy continues to struggle, “and that affects Iowa in many profound ways,” added Rozenboom. “But our budget’s in better shape than it was. We believe the effects of the tax reform we did last year will continue to yield benefits for Iowan’s going forward.”

In Iowa, the budget has to be balanced according to the state constitution, “unlike Washington that can print money or borrow money. We do neither,” added Rozenboom.

This year education will be given some attention from those drafting Iowa’s budget. “We have not been funding education to the degree most of us would like to do. One percent increases are not adequate, and we know that, so I hope that this year we’ll be able to do better than that. I think we will do better than that, and I think we’ll do it in a timely manner so that our school districts can certify their budgets.”

Beyond the education portion of this year’s budget, Rozenboom said there had been some commitments made in past years “that will require some funding, and specifically, I’m talking about mental health reform, and I’m talking about the Future Ready Iowa program.”

In Iowa agriculture, soybeans and corn are king, but there is a new push to once again legalize growing hemp as a cash crop.

Iowa used to be a leader in the production of hemp for industrial uses during WWII and before. Today production is controlled under drug enforcement laws.

Rozenboom said the Iowa Senate last year passed an industrial hemp bill to encourage production of industrial hemp in the state. “It was not taken up in the House; I think partly because at the federal level there are the rules regarding hemp. That’s been changed in the new farm bill. It opens it up for states to work with promoting industrial hemp production.”

“We do have to write some rules if we are going to allow production of industrial hemp,” added Rozenboom. “We have to have some rules to live by.”

With Iowa so dependent upon the production of soybeans and corn, we asked Rozenboom if the hemp production would be a way for Iowa to diversify its agricultural presence. “We’ve been trying that [diversification] most of my lifetime. There’s a number of different things people have tried, and they’re all good, and some of them have been successful, but they never really changed the paradigm. It’s still corn and soybeans. Hemp may, just may provide at least a little more significant change than maybe what we’ve had before.”

This coming legislative session, a bill is being worked that may require some Iowan’s who are on Medicaid to work for that benefit.

“There’s actually been a bill drafted in the past,” said Rozenboom. “I’ve read some of my colleagues making comments, public comments to that effect. One of my good colleague friends has been solidly behind that effort, and he was absolutely eviscerated by many in the media, which is sad because he’s a wonderful, kind man that has the best heart of any grandfather I know. He wishes no ill for people, but he does believe there should be some sort of work requirement for benefits, for those that are able.”

“I hope so,” says Rozenboom on seeing something come from that legislation this session. “I hope that we can have an adult conversation about things like that.”

“If you do what I do, you find every day or quite often, you find situations that make your head spin in terms of abuses of the system. And while we are limited in many cases, and most cases by Federal law, and Federal regulation, I hope that we can be a bit practical enough, and reasonable enough, to come up with requirements that at least help with the problem.”

Rozenboom will be at Eggs and Issues inside Smokey Row Coffee on January 26th, beginning at 8:30 am. He will be joined by freshmen representatives Dustin Hite and Holley Brink.

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Posted by on Jan 13 2019. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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