No changes to IPERS

CAPITOL LETTERS

BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE GARY WORTHAN

District 11, R-Storm Lake

Chairman of the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee

One of the most important goals for this year’s session was achieved on Tuesday with the passage of Senate File 512, better known as the water quality bill. This bill has been two years in the process. In 2016 the House passed a bill very similar to SF512, but at that time Majority Leader Gronstal refused to take the bill up in the Senate. With a change in majority in the Senate and the beginning of a new General Assembly in 2017, the Senate revived the 2016 House bill, made a few minor modifications and approved SF512 on the floor. 

In the meantime, the House had started anew on a water quality bill. House File 612, while a good bill, presented some concerns for many. Expanding the authority of newly formed water management districts, and concerns about the where the security interests of the bonding authority granted to these districts might fall, was problematic for several legislators. HF612 passed the House with the agreement that these issues would be resolved during the consolidation of HF612 and SF512.

Approving a water quality bill was high on the agenda for both the House and the Senate as we started the 2018 session. Governor Reynolds reinforced that goal when, during her condition of the State address, she asked that a water quality bill be the first bill the 2018 Legislature would send to her desk for her signature. After much discussion and analysis, a majority of House members determined that SF512 was the best way forward and approved the bill in a bipartisan manner. SF512 appropriates $282 million in new money to water quality over the next ten years. This is in addition to nearly $400 million a year that we currently appropriate to cost share and water quality projects. It will also reinforce and continue research to improve the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which determines the source of the nitrates and phosphorous in our waterways and the most efficient methods to mitigate the problem. The Nutrient Reduction Strategy is held up as the premier program in the nation in the effort to reduce nutrients in our surface waters.

Next on the agenda for the Legislature is a Fiscal Year 2018 appropriation reduction to balance the budget. The FY18 budget was based on an increase in projected revenue of just below four percent. The increase is now estimated to be between two and three percent. As a result, the Legislature needs to reduce spending by approximately $45 million in order to balance the FY18 budget. As we start this debate, there is agreement that K-12 school funding will not be affected. The cuts across the remainder of the budget will be in the range of eight to nine tenths of one percent. It will be a challenge for departments to absorb this reduction; most have confirmed that there will be no change in services.

There are currently a couple of bills proposed to address the expiration of SAVE, the one cent sales tax for K-12 schools. From what I have seen, there will be no drastic changes. Minor changes include 1) cleaning up the language in regard to the “statement of purpose” required for the election, and 2) requiring the mandatory funds used for property tax relief be expanded to 10% from the current 2%. In the current bills the SAVE tax would be extended until 2049.

In closing, I want to make one more attempt to allay the anxiety of those retirees that are on the IPERS system. There has been a concerted effort by some to push a false narrative that changes to IPERS benefits are under consideration. I will say again, there will be no changes to IPERS this session. Historically, pensions are a subject for the second year of each General Assembly so the subject should not be considered again until 2020. 

Please join me at my upcoming forums:

Feb. 17, at 10 a.m. at King’s Pointe in Storm Lake

March 17, at 10 a.m. at King’s Pointe in Storm Lake

These weekly legislative newsletters are published as a public service by The Storm Lake Times.