The 2019 legislative session officially adjourned for the year on Saturday, April 27 at about 2:30 in the afternoon. The session lasted 104 days which means we completed our work early and saved taxpayer money in the process.
In addition to passing a responsible budget that puts taxpayers first, we also addressed a number of priorities related to education, health care, workforce, and public safety. In this week’s newsletter, I’ll touch on a couple of the key accomplishments of the session.
Property tax transparency: One of the top priorities this session was to bring more transparency and truth in taxation to Iowans. Taxpayers are frustrated when they read in the newspaper that their property tax rate is not increasing only to find out that their taxes are going up. Legislation passed this session will ensure that taxpayers are notified and informed when their property taxes are going to increase.
When home valuations increase, sometimes local governments do not adjust their tax rates to account for that. That means that when your assessment goes up by 10%, but the city or county keeps the levy rate the same, your taxes will go up. Under this legislation, local governments will be required to make this adjustment and then build the next year’s budget with that rate in mind. It also gives local residents more opportunities to weigh in during the budget process and ensure that they understand how their taxes will change.
This legislation will not restrict local governments from meeting the needs of their communities. It simply requires more transparency for the taxpayer by requiring them to vote to raise your taxes.
Children’s mental health: Mental health care has been a bipartisan priority over the past few sessions. Last year, we worked to build out our community-based adult mental health system to ensure that services are available to Iowans no matter where they live.
This year we focused our attention on children, establishing the framework for a children’s mental health system. This plan will provide parents with a local care coordinator where they can go to find treatment and resources for a child with a mental health issue and expanded a statewide crisis line to include expertise for children’s mental health.
This legislation lays the groundwork for further expansions of mental health services for both children and adults in future sessions.
School infrastructure: One of the biggest priorities for legislators and the education community this session was the extension of SAVE, the school infrastructure tax. SAVE funds are generated from one penny of the state sales tax and provide schools with resources to make building improvements and ensure safe, modern classrooms for students. This legislation will also improve school safety by prioritizing SAVE dollars for security improvements (secure entrances, security cameras, etc.) before athletic facilities.
Additionally, SAVE provides property tax relief to local residents and reduces the need to bond for these projects. In this year’s legislation, we significantly increased the portion that goes to property tax relief to property taxes by almost $6 billion.
Growing rural Iowa: Another major priority we had this session was growing our smaller communities through the Empower Rural Iowa Initiative. This plan will incentivize the installation of high-speed, reliable broadband in underserved areas of the state and also expanded a workforce housing program to spur development in rural communities.
In addition to Empower Rural Iowa, we were also intentional at pushing more opportunities to rural Iowa. With almost every bill we considered this session, we looked for ways to benefit our small towns and communities. These efforts resulted in additional funding for rural hospitals to increase access to health services, additional resources for rural schools with higher than average transportation costs, and training more health care professionals and exposing them to rural Iowa to attract more providers.
I am incredibly proud of the work we accomplished during the 2019 session. Over the coming months, I look forward to listening to Iowans across the state to hear what they’d like to see us tackle next session.
Even though we are no longer in session, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have. You can contact me by email at Linda.Upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or by phone at (515) 281-3551.