January 25, 2014

Lawmakers field questions at Eggs & Issues

The Oskaloosa Herald


The gas tax, job creation and a minimum wage increase were some of the topics that lawmakers discussed with the public at Eggs & Issues Saturday morning.

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

Saturday's forum was the first to tackle state issues in a session that many believe will be short and uneventful leading up to legislative elections.

The lawmakers fielded a question about a gas tax increase to fund road repairs.

Sheets said that the Road Use Tax Fund is financed with pennies on a gallon of gasoline. Sheets said he would like to see that be changed to a percentage of every dollar spent on gasoline be used for road repairs.

Vander Linden said there are two bills under consideration for the Road Use Tax Fund — one in the House and one in the Senate. The House bill would take one half of 1 percent of sales tax to be used in the Road Use Tax Fund. The Senate bill would take 2 percent off of all incoming revenue to be used for road repairs.

“I can support either,” Vander Linden said.

Vander Linden said taxes should not be raised on people who are already over taxed.

Rozenboom said that since this is an election year and polls show about 65 percent of people oppose a gas tax increase, “there's your answer.”

Rozenboom said he would support going to an excise tax for road repairs.

The lawmakers also answered a question about what bills are in the works to help job creation.

Rozenboom said income tax reform is under consideration, but with a divided Legislature, there won't be any action on it. He also mentioned military pension exemptions and corporate tax reform. Iowa's corporate tax rate is 12 percent — the highest corporate tax rate in the nation for those states that also have an income tax.

Sheets said that state government spent a lot of time and effort for tax breaks to recruit new business to Iowa. He said he would support taking care of businesses already located in the state with something similar.

The lawmakers also answered a question on increasing the minimum wage.

“I'd be surprise if the bill made it out of sub committee or committee to be discussed on the floor,” Vander Linden said. Vander Linden added that he has not seen the bill yet.

There are a couple of important questions to answer about an increase in the minimum wage: “What's fair? … Where do you set it?”

Also, if you increase the minimum wage, shouldn't there be a minimum price to charge for merchandise? Vander Linden said. “It flies in the face of economics.”

“I will not support it,” Rozenboom said.

“I won't support it,” Sheets said. If the minimum wage increases, there would be fewer people in the work force, he added.

The next Eggs & Issues will be held on Feb. 8 at 8:30 a.m.

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