September 19, 2018

    State Tax Credits Increase Dramatically
    Regents Approve Funding Request & Labor Center Closure
    Weight Limit Lifted on Roads for Iowa Farmers
    State Park Volunteer Day September 22
    Flu Vaccine Time of Year
    Epi-Pen Law Working Well in Iowa

    State Tax Credits Increase Dramatically

    In recent years, the total dollar amount of state tax credits to corporations has increased substantially and left the state with steep budget cuts and more debt. During the same time, investment in critical state services, like public schools and health care, has been low.

    Even as corporate tax credits increased dramatically, Republican lawmakers passed a tax bill in 2018 with nearly $500 million in new tax cuts for corporations while leaving public schools with less than $40 million in new funding next year.

    According to a 2010 Iowa Department of Revenue study, the state has over 373 tax credits, exclusions, and tax exemptions that cost the state over $12 billion annually.

    Many Iowans have raised concerns specifically about the state’s refundable tax credits. These credits allow some of the biggest companies in the state to not only reduce their taxes to nothing for the year, but require the state to give millions in state dollars back to the companies. In 2017, a handful of companies not only paid no state income tax, but received checks for nearly $42 million from the state.

    In addition to these state tax expenditures, some companies get even more in local taxes. Property taxes are generally collected and used by local governments, so any property tax exemptions or credits created by the state typically reduce local government revenues. This reduces revenues used by local cities and counties to provide services like police and fire, repair streets, and provide community resources like parks and community centers.

    In 2017, leaders in central Iowa decided to give $213 million in state and local incentives to the world’s most profitable company, Apple, to build a data center. With just 50 permanent jobs created, the incentives means taxpayers are giving $4.26 million per job. That deal has led to many questions from Iowans about the approval process for projects like these and if there is any state oversight of these agreements.

    Regents Approve Funding Request & Labor Center Closure

    The Iowa Board of Regents has given initial approval of plans to ask lawmakers for more state resources next year as well as close several centers due to state budget cuts.

    For Fiscal Year 2020, the Regents are requesting a $20.5 million increase for student financial aid. That includes a $7 million increase for both Iowa State University (ISU) and the University of Iowa (UI). The University of Northern Iowa’s (UNI) request is for $4 million.

    The requested increase comes on the heels of budget cuts to the institutions. In 2017, the three public universities were cut $8.25 million followed by another cut of $10 million in 2018. This resulted in a 3.8% tuition increase for ISU and the UI, and UNI rose 2.8%. Earlier this year, Republican lawmakers made another mid-year cut of $11 million. The budget cuts left students and families with higher tuitions and fees again this year.

    Labor Center Closure Moves Forward

    The Regents also approved a request for several center closures including five at ISU and five at UI, including the Labor Center.

    The Labor Center offers continuing education programs that reach an average of 2,500 workers from more than 70 Iowa counties each year. The organization also conducts research, hosts events, and serves students as a career resource. The Regents have said that they do not want to close the centers, but are left with no choice because of state budget cuts. The closures have received harsh criticism from Iowans and resulted in several public forums.

    The budget request and center closures will be finalized by the Regents at their board meeting in November.

    Iowa Universities Dip in National Rankings

    According to the Board of Regents, a new report out last week from US News & World Report showed Iowa universities are slipping in national rankings due to state budget cuts. Once ranked 31st, UI slipped seven spots among 132 peer institutions and are now ranked 38th. In 2018, ISU ranked 53rd among public universities and this year slipped down to 56th.

    The rankings show that Iowa's universities slipped compared with peer institutions on measurements such as first-year student retention, class sizes, graduation rates, faculty salaries, and average spending on students.

    Weight Limit Lifted on Roads for Iowa Farmers

    As harvest season in Iowa approaches, highways tend to get busier and more agriculture products need to be moved. Starting on September 15th the transportation of corn, hay, straw, silage, and stover are allowed to travel overweight without the need for a permit.

    The permit free period for oversize/ overweight transportation lasts for 60 days and expires on November 13th. The proclamation allowing for the travel applies to all loads on Iowa highways and those that do not exceed 90,000 pounds. The proclamation excludes travel on the interstate system.

    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.

    State Park Volunteer Day September 22

    On September 22nd, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting the second annual statewide volunteer day at state parks. Over 40 state parks across the state will have projects ready for volunteers. Projects include picking up litter, painting, clearing trails, removing trees, planting trees, and building picnic tables.

    People of all ages are encouraged to participate. The DNR is expecting 1,000 volunteers. In addition to the projects, many of the parks have activates to enjoy after the work is finished! Volunteers are encouraged to share their pictures throughout the day on social media using #iowastateparks.

    To find a park near you visit, http://www.iowadnr.gov/volunteer.

    Flu Vaccine Time of Year

    Despite the influenza season not officially starting until late fall, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) is recommending Iowans obtain the vaccination. Already, cases of the flu have been reported across Iowa to IDPH. The vaccination can take up to two weeks to become effective. IDPH recommends that every Iowan over 6 months of age should receive the flu vaccine. It is especially important for some people to be vaccinated against influenza because they are at higher risk of developing serious complications, like pneumonia, if they get sick with the flu. These groups include:

    • Pregnant women (by getting vaccinated when pregnant, the woman not only protects herself during this vulnerable time, but she will pass on protection to her newborn who is too young to receive a vaccine)
    • Children, especially those younger than 2 years of age
    • Older adults, especially those aged 65 years and over
    • People who have certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease

    Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by viruses. Illness typically lasts two to seven days. The flu comes on suddenly and may cause severe illness or even death, even in healthy individuals. Obtaining a vaccination is the best defense against the flu. In addition, by being vaccinated, you will prevent spreading the flu to those around you. For more information about Iowa influenza tracking and monitoring, visit https://www.idph.iowa.gov/influenza.

    Epi-Pen Law Working Well in Iowa

    It has been three years since Iowa passed a law to allow Epi-Pens in schools. Public and private schools are allowed under the law to maintain, in a secure location, a supply of Epi-Pens. These could save a child’s life in an emergency allergic reaction situation.

    Iowa was one of the last states to pass an Epi-Pen law, which allows a health care professional to prescribe them to schools and allows personnel to administer the pens for students with limited liability. In many areas, EMS can get to the schools in a short amount of time if there is an emergency so many districts choose not to stock the drug.

    In recent years, the price of Epi-Pens has sky rocketed from the main large pharmaceutical company that supplies Epi-Pens. In Iowa, however, due to the way the law was written, it allows for more generic or other brands of the Epinephrine Auto-Injector. Thus, the devices are more affordable for Iowa schools.