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Capitol highlights

February 27, 2015
By Rep. Tedd Gassman - Representing Iowa House District 7 , Estherville News

Greetings from

Capitol Hill:

The gas tax passed both the House and the Senate on Feb. 24. The final vote in the House was 53 "ayes" to 46 "no". I spent a considerable amount of time evaluating the pros and cons of this issue. The state has failed to adequately fund our infrastructure for many years, turning this issue into an urgent situation. Our roads are a vital part of our state's economy. Many plans have been suggested to fund the roads, but most have included requiring the use of money from the general fund. Our total budget for 2015 is $7.3 billion. In our state budget, K-12 education receives $3 billion, higher education receives $1 billion and the department of Health and Human Services receives $3 billion. Using money for the roads from the general fund is not practical without a major cut in another area, and no plans for where the cut would happen have been presented. Cutting K-12 education and higher education would not work. There are some areas in the Health and Human Services budget that could be adjusted, and I will look into this in the future. After carefully considering all the options and asking all the questions, I decided that $215 million was a reasonable amount to pay for the preservation of our infrastructure, and I voted in favor of the gas tax.

This week a bill I wrote (HF 320) was assigned to Education committee. HF 320 deals with the school transportation issue. My bill would use the supplemental weighting system to increase funding for schools with transportation costs higher than the state average.

In the supplemental weighting system Iowa students are given a weighting starting at 1. Those students that have a physical or mental disability are given a different weighting such as 2. This means the school district would get additional funds for that student. The whole system is currently based on $6,366 per student. HF 320 suggests we give a weighting of 1.01 to students in districts whose transportation costs are up to $100 over the state average, 1.02 to students in districts $100-$199 over the average and 1.03 to students in districts $200 and above over the state average. This system will increase funding and help relieve the burden on schools with high transportation costs in a very reasonable way. This bill will only cost the state about $18 million. The bill passed sub-committee 3-0 today and it is now eligible to be discussed in the education committee.

We also held a sub-committee this week on another bill I wrote, HF 335. In current law, County Compensation Board members are appointed. HF 335 would require members of the board to be elected by the people for staggered, four year terms. I believe it is important for individuals who make financial decisions to be elected by the taxpayers, rather than appointed by county officials. HF 335 passed sub-committee and is now eligible to be discussed by the local government committee.

This week we passed HF 250 through sub-committee, which also provides funding for school transportation needs. It does so by requiring the school budget review committee to grant transportation funding to districts over the state average who meet certain codified requirements. I will continue to look for additional ways to equalize transportation costs in our K-12 schools so that more general-fund money can go to classroom needs instead of transportation. HF 250 is eligible to be considered in the education committee.



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