I thought I would write a short article to sum up the 2013 Legislative session. First of all, I enjoyed my time as a legislator and am in awe to be able to serve the constituents of the 7th District.
The education bills that were passed would be one of my top priorities. As a member of the education committee I was able to have a direct influence on the outcome of that legislation. I believe we made some big strides when it comes to the education of our children. Public schools were given a supplemental state aid increase of 2 percent for FY14 plus a 2 percent one-time payment. The 2 percent supplemental state aid growth is like the allowable growth of the past except that it includes paying part of the 12 percent at the top of the school aid formula. In short, we have reduced property taxes as well as given more money to the schools. We also included supplemental state aid for the FY15 school year at 4 percent. Also included in that bill was a pathway for teachers to become mentors to other teachers, a new evaluation system for teachers and administrators, the base pay for beginning teachers was increased to $33,500.00, incentives for our best and brightest to teach in Iowa, $16 million more for community colleges, sharing agreement incentives and a host of other changes.
Each 1 percent in additional school aid amounts to about $30,000,000. Another $31,000,000 was allocated for classroom size reductions.
Also included in that bill was an opportunity for private and home schools to operate by accrediting with someone other than the Iowa Department of Education. Additional options were added for those that want to home school. The STO amount was increased to $12,000,000 from $8,750,000.
I did not serve on the Ag Committee but also think we passed good legislation for our farmers. We reduced the probability of farm liability problems with a new law that excludes liability for a farmer if that farmer allows people on his farm for recreational and educational purposes. We allocated more money to close more drainage wells. Ethanol blending will continue unabated. I was on the environment committee and we worked diligently on a Voluntary Nutrient Reduction System. My goal was to reduce regulations. We were able to make future water quality better through a voluntary system. We must now take advantage of that program. If we don't, we could see restrictions on how we farm in the future.
We also passed some good property tax laws. Commercial and industrial taxes will be reduced by paying based on a reduction of the accessed value. The assessed value will be reduced 5 percent in each of the next two years. Another part of the property tax reduction is a tax credit based on about the first $171,000 in evaluation. After two years a building assessed at about $171,000 will receive a $2,000 reduction in property taxes. I campaigned on a property tax reduction and it did happen.
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Rep. Gassman's district includes Emmet County, Winnebago County, and the northern parts of Kossuth County, including Algona. You can contact him at email@example.com.
Included in that bill was a provision that Ag and Homeowners values would be allowed to increase by 3 percent a year. It is currently 4 percent. This will be a big savings in Ag and Homeowner property taxes in the future. Telephone companies had a tax reduction of half if valued at $20,000,000 or less. Those above $20,000,000 did well also. Multi-family buildings also got a reduction in property taxes. We paid off some I-jobs debt and paid off the Honey Creek bonds. We increased the pension funds for police, fire and judicial people to 80 percent of proposed payout.
We did this basically with a 3.4 percent increase in our state budget except for the one time money that we spent to reduce debt and increase pension funds. The funds used to pay debt and increase pension funds came from last year's overpayment. We spent $6.483 billion, which is less than 99 percent of the LSA December estimate. Our trust funds are full and we will probably have $500,000,000 left after FY13. The LSA estimates for total income for the State are coming in at more than the December LSA estimates. The funds lost by local governments due to property tax reductions will be backfilled with state money.
There is more but that is enough for now. It has been my pleasure to serve you and I look forward to the 2014 Legislative session. There is plenty left to do. We need more change to our Education and our Social Welfare systems.
If you have any questions please fell free to contact me.