The Behn report

April 22, 2016

Sen Jerry Behn, (R) Boone
Sen Jerry Behn, (R) Boone

This week in the Senate: We passed SR 112 on Wednesday, commending the results of Taiwan’s 2016 presidential election. This resolution reaffirms Iowa’s support for increasing Taiwan’s international profile, and strengthening and expanding sister-state ties between Iowa and Taiwan.

We are still unsure when adjournment will be. We’ve been moving budget bills each day and will be pushing our work into next week.

Tax Freedom Day: The Tax Foundation announced recently April 24 is our nation’s Tax Freedom Day. 

This is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough to pay the federal, state and local tax bill for the year. This is 114 days (excluding Leap Day) into 2016. The report released says Americans will spend more on taxes in 2016 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined, which amounts to about $3.3 trillion in federal taxes, and $1.6 trillion in state and local taxes. This a grand total of almost $5 trillion, or 31 percent of the nation’s income. This day is significant for taxpayers because it shows how long they must work in order to pay the nation’s tax burden.

Each individual state’s tax freedom day is different. Iowa’s was April 14, the 14th in the country.

Budget bills moving through Legislature: House and Senate leadership have agreed on the overall size of the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, spending $7.349 billion for FY 2017.  This is an increase of about $175 million above the current FY 2016 budget.  The majority of this increase will go to education funding, providing our schools an increase of 2.25 percent in supplemental state aid.

The budget is broken up into several pieces: Administration and Regulation, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Economic Development, Education, Health and Human Services, Justice System, and Standings.

As we work through the budget, we will continue to hold to our budgeting principles of not spending more money than we bring in and not spending one-time funds on ongoing expenses. At the beginning of this session, and even months before, we warned of serious budget problems looming if spending was not reined in.

While the increase in this year’s budget compared to last year’s seems reasonable given a 2.4 percent increase, over the last four years government spending has grown by over $1.2 billion. The rate at which government spending has increased over the last several years far exceeds the growth in Iowa family budgets.

In addition, our surplus, which reached a high of $927 million in FY 2013, is estimated to be under $80 million at the end of the current budget year, FY 2016.  The rate at which we are spending is unsustainable and is more than hard working Iowans who pay the bill for government can afford.

Teacher Leadership and Compensation program: In 2013, the Legislature passed HF 215, which included the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) program. This was a major education reform initiative establishing a new categorical allocation for the teacher leadership supplement for K-12 schools which is funded entirely through state aid.

The program only allows the funding to be used for increasing the payment to a teacher assigned to a leadership role pursuant to a leadership framework or comparable system that has been approved, increasing the percentages of teachers assigned to leadership roles, increasing the minimum teacher starting salary to $33,500.

The program also only allows the funding for covering the costs for the time mentor and lead teachers are out of the classroom, coverage of a classroom when an initial or career teacher is observing or co-teaching with a leadership teacher, professional development associated with career pathways, and other costs approved by the Department of Education.

The program was created to attract new teachers, retain effective teachers, promote collaboration among classrooms, reward professional growth and effective teaching, and improve student achievement. School districts are able to opt-in to the program, but the program requires participation to receive the funding.

On Tuesday, the Governor announced all 333 Iowa school districts have joined Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation program, with the last few districts being just approved this month.

This is a major positive step in the implementation of TLC across the state.  As the Legislature continues to invest heavily in education funding, TLC has been one of the top funding priorities, making it imperative for all schools to participate.  As the program matures, student achievement is expected to improve at an accelerated pace throughout the state.

As we finish up here, I want you to know how much I appreciate you contacting me throughout this Legislative session about the issues that matter to you. You send me to Des Moines to represent you, and I take that responsibility very seriously.

I’m honored to represent you, and look forward to being back at home in my district and talking with each of you over the course of the interim.

As always, I want to hear from you. My Senate number is (515) 281-3371 and my home number is (515) 432-7327. Write me at: State Capitol, Des Moines, IA  50319 or at my home address:  1313 Quill Avenue, Boone, IA 50036. Email me at jerry.behn [at] legis [dot] iowa [dot] gov

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