Iowa legislators prepare to reconvene - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa legislators prepare to reconvene


In just a few days, Iowa's 85th General Assembly will convene in Des Moines, and already Gov. Terry Branstad is touting education and property tax reform as key issues to be tackled this year.

The governor is expected to deliver his budget to legislators right away.

Iowa's revenues are projected to top $6.7 billion this year, and the surplus funds could top $800 million -- so a lot of wheels are turning to figure out how best to spend those dollars.

In just a few days, the Iowa statehouse will be full of legislators ready to go back to work once again.

"I'm just getting a lot of emails this week and getting back to the constituents that are concerned about different issues," said Rep. Walt Rogers, a Republican from Cedar Falls.

And local lawmakers expect no shortage of major issues to tackle in the upcoming session.

"The first couple of weeks are like going back to school. You find your seat, you find out what's going on, then come back the next day," said Rep. Bob Kressig, a Democrat from Cedar Falls. "After the first couple weeks, you get going into the real work of the budget, policy issues -- all those things."

Branstad hopes the General Assembly gets serious on tax reform.

"We're in the strongest fiscal position we've been in, ever," he said. "Now I want to look at ways we can reduce the tax burden that's been an impediment for small businesses to expand and grow in our state. Our commercial property taxes are still among the highest in the country. But I also want to reduce property taxes for all classes of property."

Lawmakers do hope a compromise can be reached on those issues since a deal on tax reform didn't get done last session. There will also be a lot of negotiating on spending the surplus -- how much of it, and what it goes toward.

"With all this talk about spending, we're also required by state law to pass a balanced budget.  We just can't be out there spending money on things that don't really have value," Kressig said. "And I think education is one of those good values. So I'm looking forward to talking about the budget issues."

"I like to talk about how we overcharged taxpayers the last couple years," Rogers said. "So how do we give some of that money back to taxpayers in a way that will help create more jobs?"

Both of the Cedar Falls legislators agree education funding is a priority, especially for the University of Northern Iowa and K-12 schools, which have struggled under the 0 percent allowable growth in funding this year.

Another topic that could come up for debate this year is Iowa's gas tax. Some are lobbying for a gas tax increase to pay for road and bridge improvements, but it's likely to face an uphill battle.

KWWL will be in Des Moines when the legislature reconvenes Monday. Already, there are 31 pre-filed bills up for consideration.

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