Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

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January 11, 2013

Backfill promised to local governments

Knoxville — Gov. Terry Branstad told the Journal-Express that property tax relief for all classes of property is his top priority for the session. 

Branstad said he was pleased with the progress already made on property tax reform. Overall, he is pleased with the fiscal work done by the Legislature last year, by discontinuing the practice of using one-time money for ongoing expenses and putting the state in its best financial position in years. 

On the subject of property tax reform, Branstad intends to ensure that while all property taxpayers will pay less, local governments will not suffer.

"The state will make good on replacing 100 percent of the revenue," Branstad said. "We're looking at about $400 million in property tax replacement (over the next five years)." Any property tax reform would be phased in, but he wants to assure local governments that, dollar for dollar, the state will replenish any revenue losses. The state will also fund property tax credits, something that has not been wholly done in years. 

Branstad would still like to see the state's funding formula changed. He is seeking supplemental state aid, with no further property tax component. Local control of funds would be maintained at the current level. 

Task forces have been discussing how to improve the education and its funding. Branstad said he is encouraged by this work.

He is hopeful that education legislation this session will include increased salaries, including stipends for teachers with special designations and funding to help some teachers repay their student loans. 

"This isn't for all teachers," Branstad said. The student loan incentive would be intended to encourage high achievers, Iowa's best and brightest, to enter into the teaching field. Branstad wants to keep them in the state and work to make sure that Iowa's classrooms are filled with quality educators. Incentives are also sought to attract teachers to work in science and math education. 

The legislative session kicks off Monday. Branstad said he is optimistic about the session and is proud of the current condition of the state, regarding its relatively low unemployment, the work being done on the Healthiest State Initiative and for other reasons. 

Look for coverage of the 2013 Iowa legislative session here at www.journalexpress.net and in print editions of the Journal-Express. 

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