The following is a news update from Iowa Democrats:
We Support Iowa Workers and Value Their Work
With the cost of healthcare, food, and childcare rising, many Iowa workers are finding their wages haven’t kept up with those increased costs. Many workers are also concerned about retirement security. During the pandemic Iowans re-examined how much value their efforts have in the workplace.
The growing concerns of Iowa workers was on display last week as over 10,000 workers at John Deere went on strike in order to get fair wages and benefits for the hard work they do.
As Iowa’s economy has recovered, John Deere has experienced significant growth with stock share prices doubling and worldwide net sales rising by 27%. The CEO of Deere received a 160% raise, resulting in an annual compensation of $14.7 million.
The workers at Deere are asking for fair compensation and their share of the recent financial success of the company. Job postings show that the average salaries of production workers and assembly line factory workers at John Deere are below what the current living wage is.
In Iowa, it is estimated that a single parent with two children needs to earn $76,876 annually for a living wage, two adults (one working) needs to earn $65,125, and two adults (both working) need to each earn $42,598.
While the strike at John Deere has garnered the most headlines, workers across the country and in Iowa are recognizing their worth and demanding livable wages, better benefits, and respect in the workplace. Called the Great Resignation, a record 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in August.
House Democrats believe that frontline workers who keep places like John Deere running everyday deserve their share of financial success through fair wages, good benefits, and a secure retirement.
Iowans interested in supporting the workers at John Deere can donate food and water or join the picket lines in Waterloo, Quad Cities, Ottumwa, Dubuque, Clarion, Ankeny, Paton, and Rock Valley.
Vote on Second Redistricting Map Set for October 28
After a party-line vote earlier this month, Iowa Senate Republicans voted down the first nonpartisan redistricting plan submitted by the Legislative Services Agency (LSA). The second nonpartisan map for new Congressional and state legislative districts is scheduled to be released on Thursday, October 21st.
Iowa lawmakers will return to the State Capitol on Thursday, October 28th to consider the second map. House Democratic lawmakers plan to vote for the second map because they know it will be drawn according to the same fair, nonpartisan standards as the first.
Please encourage your legislators to put Iowans first by adopting fair, nonpartisan maps. Find your legislator at: legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find.
Economy Holding Steady in Iowa
According to the state’s budget experts, Iowa’s economy continues to improve thanks to President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) met last week to update their budget projections for the current and upcoming budget years. The REC updated their growth projection for the current year (Fiscal Year 2022) after the books closed on FY 21 higher than expected.
Last March they had estimated 3.8% growth over FY 21, now they are estimating 1.5% growth compared to FY 2021. The October estimate sets total net receipts plus transfers at $8.934 billion. This is $133.6 million more than FY 2021.
Members of the REC mentioned several times how important the federal stimulus package was in keeping the economy. The projections from the October REC show that working families and their communities are getting left behind. Non-partisan experts continue to be concerned about low wages and the lack of Iowans to fill jobs.
Vote in Local Elections November 2nd
City council and school board elections are set for Tuesday, November 2.
There have been many changes to Iowa election laws in recent years and Iowans are encouraged to make sure they are prepared to vote before election day.
Recent changes to Iowa voting laws resulted in 294,000 Iowa voters being moved to “inactive” status. Please check your voter registration and make sure it’s up to date.
You can register to vote on Election Day at the polls or when voting early in person at the County Auditor’s office. Find your local county auditor at: sos.iowa.gov/elections/auditors/auditorslist.html. You can vote at your precinct location on Election Day, November 2. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Major Broadband Expansion Slated to Start
Thanks to President Joe Biden and Rep. Cindy Axne, the state announced that $200 million from the federal American Rescue Plan will be used for grants to improve Iowan’s broadband access.
This new grant program, offered through the Office of Chief Information Officer (OCIO), will allow communication service providers, including telecom companies and local government entities, to apply for up to 60% broadband costs in eligible areas. Communication service providers are encouraged to apply for broadband infrastructure installation in unserved and underserved locations.
Last month, the OCIO received 178 applications from broadband providers for the latest Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant program, which stemmed from a bipartisan $100 million broadband investment secured this past legislative session.
Currently, one third of Iowa’s counties are still broadband deserts and only 18.5% of Iowans have access to affordable internet plans. 35% of Iowa households lack the “25/3” benchmark for broadband speed. During the pandemic, many Iowans struggled with critical access to reliable high-speed internet while working from home or during virtual learning.
For years, the majority party in the Iowa Legislature has been unwilling to fund any state programs, Iowa ranks 45th in the nation in broadband access and the second-slowest internet speed nationwide.
President Biden has also pledged to invest $100 billion into rural broadband under his infrastructure package, which will expand access by reducing Iowan’s broadband internet service costs and promote more widespread adoption in the state’s underserved rural areas.
Questions may be submitted to the OCIO beginning October 15, 2021 and applications may be submitted from October 25th through November 22nd, 2021. Further information about OCIO’s grant process for this funding opportunity is available on their website at ocio.iowa.gov/empower-rural-iowa-broadband-grant-program-notice-funding-availability-007.
State Tax Penalties and Rates Updated for Next Year
The Iowa Department of Revenue released updated income tax brackets and interest rates for next tax year. This year, the interest rate will be 5% annually. This interest rate is what the agency charges for overdue payments. For most people, the tax year starts at the beginning of the calendar year on January 1st.
According to state law, the annual rate must be the average of the monthly prime rate over the previous 12 months, rounded to the nearest percent, and with 2% added. The average prime rate from October to September of this year was 3.25%, which was rounded to 3%, and equaled 5% total with the 2% addition.
The standard deduction will be $2,210 for single taxpayers and married taxpayers filing separately and for married taxpayers filing jointly the standard deduction will be $5,450. The standard deduction last year was $2,110/$5,210 depending on marriage status. State law requires that income tax brackets and the standard deduction are indexed to inflation, meaning that the amounts increase annually automatically based on the cost of inflation.
More Iowa News
NEW BUTCHERY PROGRAM OFFERS GRANTS: After the global pandemic, Iowa saw a need for more small butcheries and lockers as food insecurity loomed. Last session, the Iowa Legislature passed the Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Fund. Starting now through November 15 grants are available for Iowa owned state or federally inspected small-scale meat processors, lockers, and mobile slaughter units up to $50,000 to expand their facilities. Grants can be used for purchasing buildings, renting buildings, refrigeration facilities, freezer facilities, or equipment necessary to expand processing capacity. Businesses must be located in Iowa and have less than 50 employees. The business must provide a one-to-one financial match for the grant. The application deadline is November 15th. More information and the application can be found on the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s website, iowaeda.com/grow/butchery-innovation-revitalization/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery.
WEIGHT LIMIT LIFTED ON ROADS FOR HARVEST SEASON: With harvest season here, highways in Iowa tend to get busier as more agriculture products need to be moved. Now through November 14th, transportation of corn, hay, straw, silage, and stover are allowed to travel overweight without the need for a permit. The proclamation signed by the Governor, allows for the travel of all loads on Iowa highways and those that do not exceed 90,000 pounds. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) will be charged with monitoring the proclamation to ensure the safety of Iowans and facilitate the traffic involved in the state’s harvest.
REAP ASSEMBLIES HELD ACROSS IOWA: Iowans will be given the opportunity to shape how Iowa’s soil, water, and parks are managed through local REAP Assemblies. REAP stands for the Resource Enhancement and Protection program. REAP is funded by the state’s Environment First Fund, receiving $12 million this year to help enhance and protect Iowa’s natural and cultural resources. At the REAP Assemblies, Iowans can discuss the impact of the program on their local communities, as well as tell us what they want for their parks, trails, museums, and other amenities. Each assembly represents a region of counties and is scheduled for 90 minutes. Since the creation of the program in 1989, more than 15,000 projects have been funded across the state by the program. These projects have been in every county and include water quality projects, preserving historical assets, and improving outdoor recreation. Additional information on the program and the assemblies can be found at iowadnr.gov/Conservation/REAP.
MIDAMERICAN PREPARES CUSTOMERS FOR HIGHER GAS BILLS: MidAmerican Energy is alerting customers that higher natural gas prices will impact most monthly heating bills this upcoming winter season. Market prices have increased from last year, along with global demand coupled with limited production and inventory. Actual bill impacts will vary by customer due to usage as temperatures get colder and market prices continue to fluctuate. However, MidAmerican residential customers service area can likely expect 46-96% total bill increase. The heating season runs from November through March. Any customer facing financial hardship should communicate with MidAmerican to discuss options and potential assistance. The company sponsors its own residential payment assistance program, called “I Care”, which is managed by community action agencies throughout the service area. This enables people to help local community action agencies provide heating bill assistance and home weatherization to customers in need. Energy efficiency assistance is limited due to Iowa GOP leader’s defunding the state’s energy programs. For more information, go to MidAmericanEnergy.com.
SCHOOLS FACE FOOD SUPPLY SHORTAGE: Iowa schools have been dealing with food supply shortages since even before the school year started. This has made it difficult to meet the nutrition demands for lunch and breakfast programs. This is a national problem as last year, lunches in schools did not happen, and suppliers filled contracts elsewhere. Now, as schools have reopened this year, it is tough to turn that supply chain back on. Iowa schools in the field have reported shortages in paper goods, various entrees, breakfast bars, canned fruit, frozen fruit, juice, yogurt (mainly the plastic cups they come in), beef, chicken and entrée items, such as pizza. To meet the problem, the US Department of Agriculture has issued waivers to provide flexibility in school meal pattern requirements. Also, not requiring states to take fiscal action if for example, sodium, milk or vegetable requirements are not met. This allows schools to focus on filling their food supply needs without penalty in these unprecedented times.