The 2013 legislative session started with good news -- that Iowa had more revenue and was more fiscally secure than in past years. This offered a promising start to a session looking to deal with property tax relief, mental health expansion and education reform.
The good news continued with steps taken towards education reform, a bill Governor Branstad signed into law Monday. Senator Mark Chelgren told KTVO he is pleased that the reform passed, however, there were several measures he hoped would be included, such as giving more power to parents when it comes to funding and how money is spent in their districts.
Chelgren also said funding challenges were mostly resolved; several correctional facilities that were previously struggling with money received more funding, including the facility in Ottumwa that will now be able to operate at full capacity.
This year's session also saw movement on property tax reform with improvements to commercial, farmland and residential property tax, but the senator said he would have liked to see more action taken in regards to Iowa's income tax.
"We did have one benefit, that was the earned income tax credit, for some of the lower-earning Iowans who are working hard and I think it's a good thing we were able to deal with some of that issue," Senator Chelgren said. "But as far as a broad, comprehensive income tax reform, we didn't really do that. And I would have liked to have seen some of the amendments that I was working on with regards to veterans, with regards to seniors where their income from their pensions and their income from their retirement accounts... we shouldn't be collecting state tax on that. We want to encourage families to stay here in Iowa and not, through our tax code, discourage them and force them out of the state of Iowa."
The tentative agreement the legislature did reach regarding tax relief will return a part of the state surplus to low-income working families.