As election dust settles, priorities remain clear for Iowa families
Now that the votes are counted, the real work begins. Job 1? It could be any of a number of areas where solid research and analysis have shown better public policy could make a difference for a more prosperous, healthier Iowa. Take a step back from the TV ads and “gotcha” politics and these issues come clearly in focus.
In Iowa, research shows solid approaches to economic prosperity for working families include:
- Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to at least $10.10 and indexing it to inflation — a pay raise for over 300,000 Iowans, 4 out of 5 of them over age 20, 2 out of five them working full time, 3 out of 5 of them women. http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/2014Releases/140901-minwage-FS.html
- Raising the Earned Income Tax Credit to make work pay for more Iowans who are at low or moderate incomes — which benefits over 200,000 households in Iowa (about 15 percent of federal tax filers in Iowa). http://www.iowafiscal.org/how-the-eitc-hits-home-2/ Research indicates lasting improvements in income and children’s prospects long after the EITC benefit has expired. http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/2014Research/141029-COL-Part3.html
- Expanding eligibility for Child Care Assistance — a needed correction to Iowa’s low income eligibility ceiling, which blocks low-income families from receiving assistance they need to be able to work outside the home, or to accept slightly higher-paying jobs without a net loss of resources in their family budget. http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/2014docs/140313-CCA-cliffs.pdf
- Enforcing laws against wage theft — a $600 million problem in Iowa alone, swiping $60 million in tax revenue as the state of Iowa has effectively stood by and ignored it with less than two full-time positions devoted to looking out for 1.2 million private-sector employees. http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/wagetheft.html
In Iowa, research shows a fiscally responsible approach to both find revenues and do better with what we have includes:
- Stopping tax giveaways to companies that pay no income tax — which occurs at a cost of between $32 million and $45 million a year through one research subsidy program alone, even though there is nothing to show this spending boosts the Iowa economy or produces activity that would not occur anyway. http://www.iowafiscal.org/big-money-big-companies-whose-benefit/
- Reining in unnecessary “tax expenditures” — tax breaks, tax credits and other spending done through the tax code — could bring in tens or hundreds of millions of dollars for public services. A five-year sunset on all tax credits would force lawmakers to review and formally pass renewals of this kind of spending, now on autopilot. The last attempt at real reform fell woefully short. http://www.iowafiscal.org/tax-credit-reform-glass-half-full-maybe-some-moisture/
- Plugging tax loopholes — a $60 to $100 million problem — would pay for a 2 or 3 percent annual increase in state per-pupil funding of K-12 schools. Twenty-three states, including 4 of 6 Iowa neighbors, don’t permit multistate corporations to shift profits out of state to avoid Iowa income tax and contribute their fair share to local education and other state services. http://iowapolicypoints.org/2013/05/22/will-outrage-translate-into-policy/
- Reforming TIF — tax-increment financing, which is overused and often abused by cities around the state, has caught lawmakers’ attention in the past and should again. Like many tools that provide subsidies to private companies and developers, it should be redesigned to assure subsidies only go to projects with a public benefit and only where the project could not otherwise occur. Further, it should be designed to assure that only the taxpayers who benefit are the ones footing the bill, which is a problem with current TIF practice. http://www.iowafiscal.org/category/research/taxes/tax-increment-financing-tif/
In Iowa, research shows a healthy environment and smart energy choices for Iowa’s future includes:
- Putting teeth into pollution law — which means reforms in Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy to eliminate pollution in waterways. http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/2014Research/140717-nutrient.html
- Allowing local government to regulate frac sand mining — When it comes to cigarettes, guns and large hog facilities the Iowa Legislature took away the right of local government to listen to citizen desires. The General Assembly and the Governor should let democracy thrive and not take away local control of sand mining.
- Encouraging more use of solar electricity in Iowa — Jobs are created while we confront climate change if we build better solar policy in Iowa. http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/110325-solar-release.html
- Promoting local food and good food choices with school gardens — and a pilot project to offer stipends to Iowa school districts could encourage both learning and better nutrition. http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/2014Research/140514-school_gardens.html
None of these issues are new and it’s not an exhaustive list. But these were big issues for our state before the election and remain so, no matter who is in charge.
Together, we can build on the solid research cited above and lay the foundation for better public policy to support those priorities.