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Area lawmakers consider governor’s sales tax increase

Kraayenbrink says lawmakers may not have enough time to finish bill

When Gov. Kim Reynolds delivered her Condition of the State Address last month, she asked lawmakers to raise Iowa’s sales tax by a penny to pay for mental health and water quality programs while at the same time reducing income taxes.

Legislators serving Webster County said Saturday morning that they want the public’s input on the governor’s sweeping proposal.

”It does a ton of good things, but it’s going to raise your sales tax a penny,” said state Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City.

State Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, suggested the plan may just be too big and complex to deal with in this year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to end on April 21.

”I just don’t know that the legislature has time to get this bill ironed out,” he said.

During Saturday’s Eggs and Issues forum, Kraayenbrink defended his vote to submit a constitutional amendment to the voters that declares that the Iowa Constitution does not provide the right to an abortion.

State Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, reviewed measures she’s working on to improve access to child care and bar the use of cell phones while driving.

”The way I’m working to bring our parties together is working on issues that are just focused on Iowans, not one party or the other,” she said.

About 50 people attended the forum in the Bioscience and Health Sciences Building at Iowa Central Community College. Eggs and Issues is sponsored by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and the the college.

Proposed sales tax

The sales tax customers pay in Fort Dodge is now 7 cents. It includes 5 cents for the state’s general fund, 1 cent for the statewide school infrastructure fund and 1 cent to the city government, which pays for road projects, plus water and sewer work done in conjunction with road work.

In 2010, state voters approved a constitutional amendment which declared that the first three-eighths of a cent of any sales tax increase would be designated to pay for parks, trails and similar outdoor projects.

Reynolds said her Invest in Iowa Act will significantly cut income taxes, create a sustainable funding source for the mental health system, reduce property taxes and fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust as provided for in the 2010 amendment.

Sexton described it as a ”huge bill.”

He also described it as good for agriculture.

One of Reynolds’ goals with the measure is to shift the cost of mental health care from property taxes to the sales tax. But Sexton said he is concerned that in some counties the supervisors will not cut the property taxes after the mental health funding is switched to the sales tax. He said he worries that those boards of supervisors will ”keep the money and do something else with it.”

Sexton added that the House Republican caucus has a lot of very conservative members who hate to raise taxes.

He asked people to contact him and give him their opinion on the proposal.

Kraayenbrink said legislators have been feeling some pressure to raise the sales tax since 2010.

He said that increasing the number of items that are exempt from the sales tax may be one compromise needed to pass the increase. He listed feminine hygiene products and toilet paper as things that could be exempted.

The senator added that because of the sweeping nature of the bill a lot of people and organizations want input on it. That’s one of the reasons he thinks the lawmakers may just run out of time to finish the bill.

Abortion

The state Senate has approved a proposed constitutional amendment declaring that the state Constitution doesn’t provide a right to an abortion. However, that proposal is a long way from being adopted. To be added to the Constitution, it must be approved by the full legislature this year and next year and then be approved by the voters.

”We felt that the Supreme Court overstepped their bounds when they actually had put a ruling out that states that the Iowa Constitution does give the legal right for an abortion,” Kraayenbrink said. ”Abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution at all.”

He said the court’s ruling was based on ”small, little areas of the Constitution.”

”The other side of the aisle made it an abortion issue, that women will die because of this and all these bad things are going to happen, but we never fail to remember that we’re also killing the life of unborn babies so there’s other people dying as well,” the senator said.

The underlying issue, he said, is judicial authority.

”If we’re going to make laws and they’re going to get struck down, then let the judicial system make the laws,” Kraayenbrink said. ”But we don’t have that system of government here in Iowa.”

Other bills

Kraayenbrink said he has introduced a measure that would expunge a failing grade and refund costs, if any, to students at public schools and universities who can prove they failed a class because of the instructor’s political bias. He said 30 to 40 people have talked to him about the issue.

”I’ve never had 30 or 40 people come up to me about anything,” he said.

Meyer said her bill to ban the use of electronic devices while driving, unless they are in voice activated or hands free mode, has passed the House Transportation Committee and awaits action by the full House.

”I think we’ve got a good bill,” she said.

A measure she introduced that would require the state to place changing tables capable of holding adults in the restrooms at highway rest stops has also made it through committee to the full House.

Sexton said an election bill that includes both voter identification requirements important to Republicans and felon voter restoration rules important to Democrats sailed through a House committee with minimum debate. He described it as a ”perfect example of where the process of negotiating a good bill actually happened.”

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