Capitol Update Week 16

State Revenue Numbers Rebound in April

After an unexpected dip in state revenue in March, General Fund revenue in April rebounded strongly.  Through the first nine months of Fiscal Year 2013, revenue to the state of Iowa has grown by 8.7 percent.  In terms of dollars, revenue is $411 million more than the previous year at this point.

Amongst the main categories, personal income tax continues strong growth in FY 2013.  Through the first nine months, it has grown by 9.8 percent over the previous year.  That increase is $288 million.  Corporate income tax collections also remain healthy, with the growth for the year running at 14.8 percent.  One area of concern is sales and use tax, which has seen growth of only 2.1 percent so far this fiscal year.

For the month of April, state revenue was 17.6 percent higher that April 2012.  This increase is most likely due to Congress’s decision to give farmers an extension on when they had to file their taxes.  Still, there was strong growth in areas beyond agriculture in the month.

DOT Conducts Study of Vehicle Usage on Iowa Roadways

The Iowa Department of Transportation will be working on a study this spring and summer to determine how many cars, trucks and other vehicles are using the state’s roadways. This year’s efforts are concentrated in northeastern Iowa. Employees will spend peak hours between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. at one location counting the morning, noon and evening traffic. They will count and classify vehicles, record vehicle turning movements, tally helmet usage by motorcyclists, and gather other data necessary to plan the future of Iowa’s roadway systems.

Some employees will be placing and checking portable traffic recorders in the same general areas. Another data collection method involves capturing images of state highways. This program covers half of the state yearly and utilizes a van with two mounted cameras that collect 200 images per mile. At the same time, precise location information is collected through a global positioning system. That data is stored along with the images on the van’s onboard computer system. This van may be seen operating on state highways in the northern half of Iowa this year.

House Passes Healthy Iowa Plan

On April 30th the House debated a proposal called the “Healthy Iowa Plan.”  The bill was introduced by Governor Branstad as an alternative to Medicaid expansion.  The bill passed on a vote of 51-49 and will cover people below 100% of the federal poverty level with a benefit plan similar to the state employee benefit package.

The purpose of the Healthy Iowa Plan is to establish and administer a plan to promote increased access to health care, quality health outcomes, and the use of personal responsibility measures that encourage people with incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level to be cost-conscious consumers of health care and to participate in healthy behaviors.  The plan requires members to contribute a small amount of money for the plan, although the amount required would change based on income.  The plan would also create “my health rewards accounts,” which would be used for payment of required contributions, cost sharing, and health improvements by members.   Members would be offered cost incentives for their plans if they completed various things such as efforts to quit smoking or nutrition counseling.

People ages 19-64 will be eligible for the Healthy Iowa plan benefits if they meet the following criteria: the person is a U.S. citizen or alien, the person is a resident of Iowa, the person has a social security number, and the person has a household income at or below 100% of the federal poverty level.  The following people are not eligible for the Healthy Iowa Plan: a person eligible for Medicaid, a person receiving Medicare, and a person who is pregnant and eligible for Medicaid

Following enrollment in the plan, a member is eligible for benefits for a 12 month period.  The bill requires the Department of Human Services to review the member’s eligibility on at least an annual basis.  Members of the plan get to choose their primary care provider.  In addition, providers have to be within 30 minutes or 30 miles of the person’s place of residence.

Benefits under the plan include but are not limited to: preventative care services, health home services, physician services, inpatient and outpatient hospital services, emergency transportation services, prescription drugs, diagnostic services, durable medical equipment and medical supplies, rehabilitative services (including therapy), home health services, and mental health and substance use disorder services.

After passage, Governor Branstad released this statement: “The governor commends House Republicans for taking the first step toward implementing modern health care that focuses on making Iowans healthier. The current Medicaid program is old, bureaucratic, outdated and fails to make Iowans healthier. Iowa’s most vulnerable deserve health care that offers them the commitment of better health, which Medicaid fails to do. House Republicans have pioneered a new method of health care that strives to make vulnerable Iowans healthier, while protecting taxpayers. This is a huge win for Iowans.”

The bill was sent back to the Senate for their consideration.

Recap of Week 16

On Wednesday the House debated the Health and Human Services budget. It passed the House 51-49. Now, the budget will go to a conference committee to work out a compromise between the Senate and House versions. The Health and Human Services budget appropriates $1.7 billion in General Fund dollars for the Departments on Aging, Public Health, Human Services, and Veterans’ Affairs for FY 2014.  Programs that are funded include: Medicaid, state supplementary assistance, the mental health institutes, child abuse prevention, adoption subsidy, the family investment program, child support recovery, and food assistance.

The budget for the Judicial Branch was passed out of the House on Thursday. The budget for the branch is set at $167.5 million. The budget has already passed the Senate and is on its way to the Governor for his signature.

The only budget left for the House to pass is the RIIF Infrastructure bill. It was passed previously by the House and amended by the Senate. The House will resist the Senate amendment and send it to conference committee. After that reaches committee, all 11 state appropriations budget bills will be either passed or in conference committee. Once the budgets pass out of conference committee, they will be approved by both chambers before the legislature adjourns for the year.

Friday, May 3rd, is the last official day of session. It is the last day for legislative clerks and most pages. I want to thank my clerk, Dax Oberreuter, for all his hard work this session. Dax is from Ryan and is a graduate of West Delaware. He is a fine young man that will accomplish great things. While the official end of session is here, legislators will continue to be in Des Moines until all the budgets are passed and all unfinished business is taken care of.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or by phone at (515) 281-7330.

Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein

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