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Ragan: Keeping our focus at midpoint of session

The 2012 legislative session is about half over. You may see “hot button” issues in the headlines, but people in my district tell me they’re more concerned with creating jobs and improving education. I agree, and I’m focusing my attention on:

** Helping workers get the skills they need to fill local jobs. We should give our community colleges more tools to help unemployed or under-employed Iowans qualify for local job openings.

** Cutting commercial property taxes for every Iowa business, especially our small and main street businesses. The bipartisan plan does not increase residential property taxes.

** Cutting income taxes for 260,000 working families, including 37 percent of all Iowa children. This tax cut helps lift low-wage workers out of poverty and boosts local businesses.

** Increasing student achievement by keeping the best teachers in our classrooms, providing more one-on-one attention to kids learning to read, and making tuition affordable at our state universities and community colleges.

Budgeting for student achievement

The jobs of tomorrow require more skills than ever. To ensure Iowans are prepared, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved an education budget that invests in student achievement and helps build a talented workforce, while being fiscally responsible. This includes:

** Keeping community college tuition affordable with a $25 million increase in state support.

** Investing $20 million for worker training in fields with a shortage of skilled workers.

** Maintaining strong support for returning soldiers through the National Guard Education Assistance program.

** Keeping the tuition affordable at our state universities, which educate our future workforce and are economic engines in their own right.

** A $500,000 increase in funding for local libraries, which are essential community information resources.

** A $300,000 increase in funding to Iowa Public Television, an integral education tool for our schools and an important part of lifelong learning for many Iowans.

As we continue putting together next year’s state budget, I’d appreciate your comments and input.

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