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 Statehouse News

Hello everyone in House District 82! 

I recently visited Savannah, Georgia while on a family trip with my wife, Connie.  We stayed in a hotel adjacent to the Savannah River as it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.  Savannah is a very old city dating back to the early 1700’s.  Georgia was one of the original 13 colonies.  During our stay I observed an endless flow of giant cargo ships going up river and down the river stacked seven high with steel containers.  The city of Savannah is home to a very busy port.  Seeing the ships and the busy loading and unloading docks made me very aware of how much we rely on trade with other countries.  Those ships were carrying products from our country to others around the world.  At the same time ships were carrying things made elsewhere to our country. 

A healthy economy relies on fair and free trade with others.  Here in Iowa, we produce more than we consume.  We have to be able to sell our commodities and our high quality manufactured goods to foreign countries.  I am very concerned about the short term and long term damage the current taxes or tariffs being placed on products we buy and sell, will have on Iowa’s economy. 

In December I received a quote to put a new steel roof on one of the two buildings at my business in Fairfield.  I delayed making a decision to purchase the roof until June.  The price went from $10,500 to over $12,000 in 6 months.  The reason I was given was the steel tariff or tax caused the price increase.  Cars, farm equipment, and building materials are all costing more.  Agriculture products we sell to other countries have lost value.

The trade war we are now in will be felt especially hard by all of us in Iowa.  Trade agreements are developed slowly over decades.  They rely on trust.  I think the damage that has already been done, in the last few months, is going to be very difficult to recover from. 

It’s now mid- September and our kids are back in school!  I think it is great that most of the school buildings in House District 82 are air conditioned!  The statewide sales tax penny that can be used for public school infrastructure is the reason many kids and teachers now spend the day in a comfortable environment.  The revenue from the SAVE penny can also be used to replace windows, roofs, and technology equipment.  Urban and rural districts both benefit. 

I’m going to be attending a conference in Davenport for state legislators from several Midwestern states that border the Mississippi River.  We will be learning about the current condition of the water shed of the upper Mississippi River.  Topics will include nutrient reduction, flood control, and recreation opportunity.  Ways to address the Dead Zone at the mouth of the Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico will be presented.  We all must work together to protect and improve our fresh water supply.

As you may have heard, there were changes made that requires voters to bring a valid photo ID to vote. In order to vote, a person must show one of the following ID’s:

•    Iowa Driver’s License
•    Iowa Non Operator ID
•    United States Passport
•    United States military or veterans ID
•    A federally recognized tribal ID
•    Voter Identification Card from the Secretary of State

Voters without IDs are allowed to sign an oath and vote on an official ballot. All voters are also allowed to vote a provisional ballot as a last resort. 

I’m working hard for you.  I listen and learn.  I will always fight for you and do what is right.  Thanks for letting me serve you. 

State Representative Phil Miller

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.

Read More News from the Statehouse

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

Contact Representative Phil Miller

1009 Grand Ave
Iowa House of Representatives
Des Moines, IA 50319
902 S. Suncrest Drive
Fairfield, IA 52556
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