A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, Feb. 20, 2012:
$376 MILLION CLIFF: Iowa could face a $376 million loss in revenue if the Bush era tax cuts are allowed to expire, Sens. Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, and Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, warned.
Iowa is one of a handful of states to allow a deduction for federal income taxes paid. As a result, Dix said, Iowa will see a revenue loss if federal income taxes increase because Iowans will be allowed to deduct federal taxes paid to Washington.
Because all Iowa taxpayers get a deduction for their federal income taxes, the combined effect would result in a loss of $376 million from revenues, making Iowa’s already critical fiscal condition even worse, he said.
The cuts will expire if Congress does nothing.
Dix and Feenstra are urging the Senate to adopt a resolution encouraging Iowa’s congressional delegation to back extension of the tax cuts. If they expire, Dix said, the average middle-income family would pay $1,540 more in federal taxes.
“An increase in taxes right now will have long-term negative effects on hard-working Iowans and will result in decreased economic spending and greater individual financial hardship,” he said. “Tax increases don’t boost economies.”
KADYN’S LAW: The House Public Safety Committee unanimously approved an amended version of a bill that increases the penalties for people who disobey traffic laws regarding school buses.
HF 2222 is named after Kadyn Halverson, a 7-year-old girl who was struck by a car and killed as she went to her school bus in rural Worth County May 10, 2011. The amendments included authorizing a study by the departments of Education, Public Safety and Transportation relating to school bus safety which will look at the feasibility of having children picked up and dropped off so they don’t have to cross streets.
The legislation moves to the full House for consideration. It mandates a fine of at least $250 but not more than $675 and a person can be sent to jail for up to 30 days for a first offense. A second offense within five years is a serious misdemeanor, with fines ranging between $315 and $1,875 and up to a year in jail.
PUTTING IOWANS TO WORK: A pair of bills intended to help Iowa businesses and put more Iowans to work moved to the Senate Economic Growth Committee despite businesses’ reservations with the legislations.
SF 2211 would create the Iowans First Tax Credit. It would allow eligible businesses that hire qualified Iowans to claim a $2,000 tax credit, according to Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Cedar Rapids. Her other bill, SF 2215, would allow Iowa businesses a chance to match the low bidder on contracts less than $500,000 if the low bidder was not an Iowa company. The Iowa company’s bid would have to be within $10,000 or 5 percent of the low bidder to get a chance to match it.
Business lobbyists warned that Iowa companies will face the same restrictions when they bid in neighboring states which have “mirror reciprocity” with Iowa.
Mathis said SF 2215 should result in lower bids and more business for Iowa companies. Others warned that bids may be less competitive if those out-of-state companies quit bidding on Iowa contracts.
Lobbyists said the $2,000 tax credit would be unlikely to cause a company to create a job, but would benefit companies that are expanding.
IOWA CLIMATE CHANGE: Jerry Schnoor of the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research and Gene Takle of Iowa State University will present “Climate Change Impacts on Iowa — The Final Update of the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council” from 1 to 2 p.m. Feb. 21 in Rm. 102 of the Capitol.
DUTY TO ASSIST: Iowans present at the scene of an emergency or an accident and know another person has suffered a serious physical injury would have a duty to provide assistance under a bill that cleared the Senate State Government Committee on a 9-6 vote Monday.
SF 2090 would impose the duty to assist to the extent that person could assist without danger to himself or herself or to others. Reasonable assistance may include obtaining or attempting to obtain aid from law enforcement or medical personnel, said Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, the bill’s sponsor.
He said the legislation stemmed from an August 2010 incident at an Urbandale motel in which Chad Nauman, 35, died after laying unconscious on a floor while at least eight people were aware of his circumstance but failed to provide assistance.
Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, one of six Republicans who opposed the bill, said the Nauman death was a shameful, tragic situation but he said it would be difficult to legislate or mandate responsibility that could lead to criminal or civil liability.
‘NO’ ON GAS TAX HIKE: Iowans opposes a gas tax increase by a 60 to 33 percent margin, according to a poll conducted Feb. 12 for Iowans for Tax Relief.
The poll by Victory Enterprises found that among Iowans opposed to a gas tax hike, 12 percent strongly favored the increase while 36 percent were strongly opposed.
The poll of 400 registered Iowans also found a third of Iowa voters would be less likely to re-elect a state representative who voted to increase the gas tax.
Almost 50 percent of those surveyed preferred a fee system targeting users who cause the most damage to Iowa’s roads. Most of the critical needs on Iowa’s road system are not on primary roads but on less used secondary roads and bridges, ITR said.
The Muscatine-based interest group called the gas tax proposal an “attempted money grab by special interests, not a reasonable solution to a real problem.”
“It would be wrong to raise taxes and fees on the great majority of Iowans, whose light vehicles cause almost no road damage and who already pay high gas taxes and fees,” the group said in announcing the poll results.
SUPPLY CHAIN TAX INCENTIVE: A tax break to entice suppliers of advanced manufacturers to move — or remain — in Iowa won the unanimous approval of the House Economic Growth Committee.
The state’s current tax code doesn’t assess corporate income tax on manufactured goods sold out of state, but does charge corporate income tax on goods sold within Iowa. One result is that a large finished goods manufacturer like Deere and Co. or Rockwell Collins that sells most of its goods out of state may wind up paying less corporate income tax than its in-state suppliers for an equivalent amount of sales.
However, HSB 604 would offer a supply chain incentive by cutting the corporate income tax rate of Iowa-based manufacturers on tangible personal property sold to an Iowa-based “anchor manufacturer” that is primarily involved in interstate commerce.
Lawmakers like the bill, which is one of Gov. Terry Branstad’s priorities, because it not only encourages more out-of-state suppliers to locate in Iowa, but could help keep existing suppliers in Iowa and help anchor manufacturers to be more competitive.
The committee amended the proposal to apply the incentive to companies that employ at least 50 people and opened it to Iowa-owned Subchapter S corporations. After three tax years the incentive will be evaluated by legislators to determine whether it should be continued.
RUNNING IN MUSCATINE: John Dabeet, the chairman of the Business Department at Muscatine Community College, announced he will run in Iowa House District 91, which includes the city of Muscatine and eastern Muscatine County.
Dabeet, a Democrat, is in his 17th year at Muscatine Community College where he teaches economics and statistics. He is also the student government advisor and serves on Eastern Iowa Community College district-wide globalization initiative as well as the student council. Dabeet is also an adjunct professor at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant.
Dabeet, a Christian, is president of the National Americans and Palestinians for Peace. He is past president of Muscatine Sister City Association and former chairman of the Diversity Service Center of Iowa, which is based in Muscatine.
For eight years, he served on the Board of Directors for the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Dabeet and his wife, Abeer, have two sons.
Republican Rep. Mark Lofgren is the incumbent in the district.
RUNNING IN MCGREGOR: MFL Mar-Mac school board President Patti Ruff of McGregor is running in Iowa House 56, which includes all of Allamakee County and part of Clayton County.
Ruff, a Democrat, works at Bunge North American in McGregor. She works with local farmers and co-ops to sell and transport grain down the Mississippi River to other states as well as exporting grain overseas.
Ruff and her husband, Dan, are graduates of Mar-Mac High School. They have three children, are members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in McGregor. She is a graduate of Loras College in Dubuque.
SENATE CONFIRMATIONS: The Senate voted 49-0 Monday to confirm 35 of Gov. Terry Branstad’s appointees to state boards and commissions.
The list include 11 members the governor named to the newly created Economic Development Authority board. They included Dawn Ainger, David Bernstein, Pete Brownell, Theodore Crosbie, Brenda Cushing, Kaye DeLange, Larry Den Herder, John Lisle, Delia Meier, Rosemary Parson and Daniel White. Lisle and Bernstein were the only carry-over members from the previous Iowa Economic Development Board.
Senators also approved the placements of Dustin Embree, Adam Feiges, Nick Glew and Gerald Schnepf to the Iowa Great Places Board.
Gubernatorial nominees must receive an affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of the 50-member Iowa Senate to win confirmation.
Quote of the Day: It’s just a ‘warm-fuzzy’ legislation that they’re going to pass so they feel like they’ve done something so they can put it in their newsletters and so they can go out and talk about it in the election.” Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Indianola, in opposing Senate File 2028 – legislation intended to protect unemployed people from discrimination in hiring by barring Iowa businesses or online employment agencies from stipulating in advertisements or job posting that only people currently employed would be allowed to apply for an opening. The bill was forwarded to the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 2-1 vote Monday.
–Compiled by the Des Moines Bureau