By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express
---- — State Sen. Amy Sinclair is in the process of drafting a bill that, if made into law, would work to address road infrastructure issues in rural Iowa.
Her bill would return funding levels for road infrastructure to pre-TIME 21 rates. TIME 21 was enacted a few years ago and shifted a higher percentage of road use tax funds to the Iowa Department of Transportation, away from cities and counties. Under TIME 21, the distribution of funds is 60 percent to the state and 20 percent each to cities and counties. Prior to this, counties received 37.5 percent. Cities still received 20 percent.
Sinclair, who lives in rural Wayne County, said roads are crumbling in her district and throughout Iowa. The state’s economy is still steeped in agriculture and it will be difficult to see continued success in this field if farmers are unable to transport their crops or livestock to market due to poor road conditions. Sinclair realizes this could pit rural Iowa vs. urban Iowa, but she stresses that she has no problem with meeting the needs of more populated areas. She believes that rural Iowans pay more in road use taxes because they are forced to travel further to get where they need to go. That should be reflected in the amount of money used to maintain rural roads. In any case, she was elected to represent a rural area of Iowa and she said that is what she intends to continue to do.
The bill is still being drafted with the assistance of the Legislative Services Agency. No bill number has yet to be assigned to it.
Beyond addressing Iowa’s infrastructure, Sinclair said her other top priority for this session is to work on a strong, sustainable budget. The Legislature approved Gov. Terry Branstad’s reform priorities – including property tax and education – last year. With the passage of these reforms, Sinclair wants to pay particular attention to the budget so that the reforms can be properly implemented while protecting the state’s fiscal condition and responsibilities. What she hopes to avoid is financial struggles at the state level when reforms are fully implemented.
Sinclair was a freshman legislator during the 2013 session and much of that time was consumed with education reform. She will continue to serve on the education committee, but does not believe there will be many changes coming from that committee in 2014, due to reforms passed earlier this year.
State Supplemental Aid, formerly allowable growth, or the amount in which school districts can increase their spending authority, is set at 4 percent for the 2014-15 school year. When asked if she thought 4 percent would be granted for the next year, Sinclair does not believe the Legislature will approve 4 percent again. Revenue projections for the coming years do not appear to be able to support that level of increase.
Sinclair believes that if the Legislature focuses on a conservative, responsible budget and not much else, there should be no need to be in session the full 100 days. She said that if the Legislature stays in session, she would not mind if that time is spent reviewing laws already in place to make the Iowa Code more concise.