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Local News

March 9, 2013

Funnel week items highlight Eggs & Issues

OSKALOOSA — Funnel week issues were highlighted at Saturday's Eggs & Issues.

Among those issues were education reform, Medicaid expansion and property taxes.

Republican state Sen. Ken Rozenboom, State House Republicans Guy Vander Linden and Larry Sheets were on Saturday's panel of legislators.

In his opening statements, Rozenboom noted that it had been a "quiet week," adding that no floor debate took place. He noted that a state senator had a medical issue recently.

Sheets said he’s been involved with a number of bills recently during his opening statements. These included bills related to everything from septic tanks to rural improvement zones.

Sheets also noted that he is working on getting an education bill going. He said one of the issues facing rural schools is the cost of transportation. Working with both Democrats and Republicans is part of this effort, added Sheets.

Vander Linden called funnel week in the state legislature the "dividing line." He said issues like education and property tax are those that "take time" and are what are left now.

Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt asked about any progress on property tax reform during the question and answer portion of Saturday's Eggs & Issues meeting.

Vander Linden said there was progress, but he was unsure if there actually would be any progress. He said the bill in the state house that has to do with property tax is a "good bill."

"The idea is that eventually all classes of property would be tied together instead of having ag and residential in one and industrial and so forth," explained Vander Linden. "And the growth rate would be tied to industrial, which is the one that goes up the slowest."

He said the other feature of this bill is that property taxes could only go up by two percent per year, as opposed to four percent now.

Vander Linden said the bill would "soften that blow" of allowable growth, but still get money to schools, as well.

Rozenboom said Iowa is "not in very good shape" when it comes to taxes. He said the state needs an overall review of tax and regulatory policy.

Mahaska Health Partnership CEO Jay Christensen asked the legislators about Medicaid expansion.

Sheets answered by saying the Iowa Care Plan would "die," adding that it is being replaced with the Healthy Iowa Plan. He noted this will help people with getting local medical care.

"It will be a completely different program than the one that everyone dislikes," Sheets said.

Vander Linden said he’s skeptical of Medicaid expansion. He said everyone in the state legislature wants to see adequate medical care for all Iowans.

"It’s a matter of can we afford to do it," said Vander Linden, adding that no decision has been made on either Gov. Terry Branstad's plan or any other.

This will take a lot of thought on the part of the Iowa legislature, said Vander Linden.

Rozenboom also said the issue of Medicaid expansion is complicated. He said "personal health and taking care of yourself" should be a part of the equation.

During the question and answer portion of Saturday's Eggs & Issues, Rozenboom was asked about education reform.

Rozenboom said that, on the state senate side, it seems as though Democrats are for passing four percent allowable growth. He said it isn’t known at this time what the state senate would do on this issue right now.

A number of additional issues where discussed during the question and answer portion of Saturday's Eggs & Issues. These issues included things like adoption and foster care, the idea of a flat tax, driver's license fees and the idea of any impact of federal sequestration on Iowa.

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Herald City Editor Andy Goodell can be reached at news2@oskyherald.com.

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