A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest:
BIG TWO “MUST DO” BILLS: Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said agreeing on a major state income tax rewrite and setting the state budget for fiscal 2019 are the top issues remaining for the 2018 session to complete. Whitver said the two issues are intertwined because majority Republicans and Gov. Kim Reynolds likely have to settle on a tax reform package before they can set the overall size of next fiscal year’s budget plan and issue spending targets for the various House-Senate appropriations subcommittee to use in divvying up available resources. “We have to come to agreement what that tax plan will look like at the same time that we’re setting our budget targets,” the Senate GOP leader told reporters Thursday. “I’m hoping (the House) will have their tax plan out fairly soon and then we can start to negotiate on what that final bill will look like.” He said talks continue with the Senate, House and governor on the tax and budget issues now that lawmakers have finalized needed adjustments to erase a projected shortfall in the current budget year that ends June 30. “Obviously, there are a lot of priorities of other members and other constituencies out there that we’re going to work on, but the budget and taxes are the two biggest ones that we have left,” said Whitver, who expects the Legislature can complete its work by the April 17 adjournment target when per-diem expense money runs out on the session’s 100th day.
LEGISLATIVE DAILY EXPENSE MONEY: The daily expense money legislators receive for the time they spend during session in Des Moines will not end early after all. Members of the 87th Iowa General Assembly are slated to receive $168 in daily expense money for this year’s scheduled 100-day run. Those legislators who live in Polk County receive a lower amount of $126 since they have fewer expenses, according to legislative rules. The expense money, now tied to a federal indexing formula rather than set by legislators, will end April 17 regardless of whether it takes longer than that to adjourn this year’s session. Confronted with a projected state budget shortfall in the current fiscal year, majority Republicans in the Iowa Senate formulated a package of spending cuts and adjustments to balance the ledger that included reducing the expense money paid to legislators by 10 days to share in the pain. Minority Senate Democrats offered an amendment to Senate File 2117 to lop off five more days, taking it down to 85 days, and GOP senators accepted that revision. However, the GOP-led House came up with a different version of the de-appropriations bill and in the negotiations to reach an agreement last week the per-diem language was stripped from the final bill and the 100-day allotment remains intact.
Monday will mark the session’s 78th calendar day. So far, lawmakers have spent 44 days in actual work sessions at the Capitol since commencing work Jan. 9.
SKILLS GAP: U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta will speak about what Iowa should know about closing the national skills gap April 3 at the Governor’s 2018 Future Ready Iowa Summit in Des Moines. The goal of the summit is to bring together leaders from business and industry, education and nonprofit, along with elected officials, students and others to amplify the public conversation about transforming education and the workforce. The agenda will feature work-based learning exhibits, table talks, networking opportunities and breakout sessions. Registration still is open for the all-day summit. The cost is $50 for adults. There is no cost for students. The sign-up period closes Monday. To register, visit iowastem.gov.