Farm Bureau hears from area legislators

Jones County Farm Bureau held a legislative forum, open to the public, on March 7 in Anamosa. Sen. Dan Zumbach, Rep. Lee Hein, and Rep. Andy McKean shared their insight on a variety of topics. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Jones County Farm Bureau held a public legislative forum in Anamosa on Saturday morning, March 7. While it was a small crowd, many important matters were highlighted.

Invest in Iowa

     “It’s been a Farm Bureau priority to get mental health funding off the property tax roles,” said Farm Bureau member Darren Stadtmueller.

     Rep. Lee Hein admitted it’s been an uphill battle finding enough people in the Republican Caucus to support the initiative.

     “I firmly believe that if God whispered in their ears and told them that their pathway to heaven is to raise the sales tax, they would ask where the bus is to go to hell,” Hein said. “I think that’s a pretty fair statement.”

     He said a good example of a similar bill was raising the gas tax, which helped to fund road, bridge and infrastructure projects across the state.

     Invest in Iowa includes an increase in state sales tax of $540 million, a $100 million decrease in property taxes for mental health, and activating the three-eights of a cent for recreation, trails, and water quality.

     “Overall, when you look at the program, 99 percent of Iowans are going to have a tax reduction. Your tax bill will be less by doing this,” encouraged Hein.

     Sen. Dan Zumbach felt that Invest in Iowa may not happen this year, and might be better suited to pass in the 2021 legislative session.

     “When you look at changing income, sales and property taxes, and the way the revenues come into those three buckets, you’re changing everything. And now you’re supposed to get 150 legislators to agree on it,” explained Zumbach, from this point of view. “It’s a huge animal to try to harness up in 30 days. I foresee getting it shaped this year. It’ll be extremely difficult to get it passed.”

Johnson County

     Stadtmueller said it seems as though agriculture is “under fire” in Johnson County.

     Hein said the House worked on an ag/tourism bill that contradicts Johnson County.

     “It dealt with having people on your farm,” he said.

     Apparently, Johnson County wants to assess a fee to farms that host large gatherings.

     “If you had a large family gathering (on your farm), you’d have to apply for a $250 permit to have that gathering,” said Hein.

     In addition, Zumbach said Johnson County also wanted to control the expansion of farms when it comes to the expansion or building of infrascture.

     “It’s what you and I would call maintenance,” said Zumbach. “They’re trying to control any expansion, any improvements. That just wasn’t acceptable. It’s pretty clear that there’s a real overreach from inside Iowa City to control all of Johnson County.”

County Supervisor Salaries

     Similarly, Zumbach shared that some county supervisors are being paid in excess of their county median wage. The Iowa legislature is working on a bill to combat that.

     “In some of the major populated areas, supervisors get paid over $100,000 a year,” said Zumbach. “The median wage is probably a third or half of that. It’s outside of the reality what most folks are making.”

     Hein said Polk County officials feel they take on more work and deal with more people and more finances than rural county officials. Hein thinks it’s just the opposite.

     “Our small counties, they don’t have the administration, the people underneath them. They put together their budgets. They go to all of the meetings that Polk County goes to,” Hein said. “I think they probably deserve more than Polk County supervisors.”

     Hein feels the county supervisor salary needs to be a vote of the people rather than a suggestion by the county compensation commission.

     “It’s more about service than it is about making a good income,” he said. “The bill will put some control on what I call ‘out of control’ supervisors.”

Welfare Reform

     Zumbach hit on a bill in the Senate dealing with state residents taking advantage of state programs such as welfare.

     “One issue that’s come up throughout the four counties that I represent is a consistent concern for people who have abused our welfare program,” explained Zumbach. “We see so much waste, fraud, and abuse.”

     He said if abled-bodied people on welfare can work, then they need to help contribute to Iowa’s workforce.

     “We want our dollars to be valuable to the people that need it,” added Zumbach.

     He was pleased to see if the pass out of the Senate, on its way to House, with bi-partisan support.

Rural School Transportation

     Farm Bureau member Darrick Hall also praised and thanked the legislators for their support of funding the rural school transportation inequity.

     “You’ve been the champions for that,” he said. “It was something that was very much needed. I know that can be a fight because of our urban neighbors.”

     Rep. Andy McKean said there were some urban schools and urban legislators who backed the bill.

     “They were pretty cooperative. It has taken a long time. It’s been talked about for a long time,” acknowledged McKean. “I was very happy that the Democratic Caucus was behind that very strongly, as well as the Republican Caucus, urban and rural. It really was an inequity that needed to be corrected.”


Subscriber Login