February 8, 2014

Eggs & Issues delves into school funding, transportation

The Oskaloosa Herald


Education and transportation were two main points of discussion at the Eggs & Issues legislative forum Saturday morning.

Republican state Sen. Ken Rozenboom and Republican state Reps. Guy Vander Linden and Larry Sheets were on hand to field questions from the audience.

Senate Democrats recently proposed a 6 percent allowable growth bill for education spending for 2016. The measure passed the Senate on a party-line vote of 26-23.

“I voted against it,” Rozenboom said in his opening remarks. He said the state could not sustain the 6 percent funding figure and in the past the state government has not always kept its funding promises.

Oskaloosa Schools Superintendent Russ Reiter asked the legislators about allowable growth funding since the rate has to be set by Feb. 13. School district officials need the figure in order for them to craft their budget.

Rozenboom said to expect a figure between 2 and 4 percent.

Sheets said a couple of years ago, allowable growth was 0 percent. He said 2 percent is a common figure.

Vander Linden said the Legislature could do the safe thing and set the figure at 0 percent or lawmakers could wait and see what monetary figure would be appropriate. Whenever someone sets a figure at 6 percent or another unreasonable figure, they are “playing politics,” he said.

Rozenboom said that 55 percent of the state budget is devoted to education.

The lawmakers also talked about transportation issues.

Eric Palmer asked about the state government's role in the completion of the regional airport between Oskaloosa and Pella.

“We're in favor of it,” Vander Linden said. He said the state does not do much in regards to the airport — compared to the local and federal governments.

Musco Lighting President Joe Crookham said federal transportation officials want transportation improvements to be multi-modal — in this case airport and highway — and the state government is very active in highway improvement funding for things such as the Highway 63 project.

Rozenboom said the Iowa Department of Transportation is also involved in aviation. He said the Highway 63 coalition has done much critical work on the project and state legislators can support the coalition by talking to DOT Commission officials about the importance of the project.

Sheets said he can support improvements to Highway 63 to give better access to Interstate 80. He said he is not as well-versed in the regional airport project.

Vander Linden said that in the near-term, the highway project is more important than the airport and that the state is involved in roadway improvements.

Forum moderator and Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt said a local delegation will travel to the state capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 18, to lobby state lawmakers about transportation and other issues.

The next Eggs and Issues forum will be at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at Smokey Row.

Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at oskynews@oskyherald.com