Capitol Update

January Figures Bring State Revenue Concerns

State revenues fell in January, raising concerns that the state may not meet last December’s projection for growth during the current fiscal year.

January’s General Fund revenue was $29.5 million (-5.0%) below what the state took in during January 2014. This put revenue growth for the first seven months at a positive $152.4 million, or growth of 4.1 percent. While still positive, state revenue had grown by 5.8 percent through December 2014. Compared to the Revenue Estimating Conference’s FY 2015 projection in December, actual revenue growth is behind the 6.8 percent increase projected. In terms of actual dollars, actual returns are $100.6 million behind the REC projection.

Individual income tax collections were 1.3 percent below those in January 2014. For the fiscal year, individual income tax returns have grown by 4.2 percent. That is below the REC forecast of 5.7 percent growth. As it has been for much of the fiscal year, withholding payments were again higher than last year’s figures. Revenue from estimate payments was down once again. Income tax payments accompanying returns were also down in January (-8.0%) when compared to January 2014.

Sales and Use Tax collections were also below the previous January’s level, with the difference being a negative 6.7 percent this month. For the fiscal year, sales and use collections are running at the 4.4 percent growth level projected by the Revenue Estimating Conference.

Corporate income tax collections for January came in at $32.6 million. This figure is 30.8 percent lower than the January 2014 figure of $47.1 million. For the year, corporate income tax receipts are 5.6 percent below the REC estimate. This figure amounts to a reduction of $17.5 million.

Continuing the month’s trend, tax refunds were also down when compared to what was returned to taxpayers in January 2014. Tax refunds totaled $9.5 million for the month, which was down $3.3 million from last year. For the year, refunds are down 5.1 percent. The Revenue Estimating Conference has projected a 5.4 percent reduction.

While state revenue remains positive for Fiscal Year 2015, the chance that collections could exceed the REC projections is starting to slip away.

Northey Encourages Century & Heritage Farm Owners to Apply

On Friday, January 30, 2015, the Iowa Department of agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) issued a press release in which Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey encouraged eligible farm owners to apply for the 2015 Century and Heritage Farm Program.  The program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Farm Bureau and recognizes families that have owned their farm for 100 years in the case of Century Farms and 150 years for Heritage Farms.

Applications are available on the Department’s website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov by clicking on the Century Farm or Heritage Farm link under “Hot Topics.” Farm families seeking to qualify for the Century or Heritage Farms Program must submit an application to the Department no later than June 1, 2015.

The ceremony to recognize the 2015 Century and Heritage Farms is scheduled to be held at the Iowa State Fair on Thursday, August 20, 2015. The Century Farm program began in 1976 as part of the Nation’s Bicentennial Celebration and 18,328 farms from across the state have received this recognition.  The Heritage Farm program was started in 2006, on the 30th anniversary of the Century Farm program, and 736 farms have been recognized.

Last year 344 Century Farms and 86 Heritage Farms were recognized.

Public Input Sought on Iowa’s Science Education Standards

The Department of Education announced a series of forums to collect public input on Iowa’s academic standards for science. This follows a series of meetings, which began in early November, by a team of 19 Iowa leaders in education and business to review Iowa’s science standards, as well as rigorous science standards from other states, and to make a preliminary recommendation for improvement.

The review is in response to Governor Branstad’s Executive Order 83, signed in October of 2013, related to local control of education standards and assessments. The Executive Order states: “…the adoption of state standards should be done in an open, transparent way that includes opportunities for Iowans to review and offer input.”

The public can weigh in on the standards in a person or via an online survey. The survey is located here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VW6SHDY?c=Iowa_Science_Survey and is available until February 27th.

Here are the dates and times of the public forums:

Wednesday, Feb. 11: Waukee (4:30 – 6:30 pm)

Waukee Community Schools District Office

560 Southeast University Ave.

Tuesday, Feb. 24: Ottumwa (4:30 – 6:30 pm)

Great Prairie Area Education Agency

2814 North Court Street

Wednesday, Feb. 25: Dubuque (4:30 – 6:30 pm)

Keystone Area Education Agency

2310 Chaney Road

Thursday, Feb. 26: Sioux City (4:30 – 6:30 pm)

Northwest Area Education Agency

1520 Morningside Ave.

The team will consider the public feedback before sending a final recommendation to the Education Department and to the State Board of Education next spring.

The review of science standards will be followed by reviews of the other parts of Iowa’s statewide standards, which cover social studies, mathematics, English language arts and 21st century skills. Each review will follow a similar format.

Review teams will be made up of Iowans with expertise in each subject area. For example, the science standards review team includes education and business leaders with expertise in physical science, life science, earth and space science, and engineering, technology and application.

Iowa lawmakers adopted statewide academic standards in 2008. The standards set consistent expectations for learning in schools across the state. The standards are a set of goals, not a curriculum, so decisions about how to help students reach the standards remain in the hands of local school administrators and teachers.

Last year the House unanimously passed a bill designed to create a similar process. House File 2439 would have provided greater transparency and opportunities for public input on the state’s education standards, among other things. It required the Department of Education and the State Board of Education to solicit public input and suggestions to revise or amend any standards. It also required at least three public meetings across the state with public input collected through the Department’s website with the goal to identify any opportunities to strengthen the standards with input from Iowans. The bill received no consideration in the Senate.

Further information is available on the Department’s website. https://www.educateiowa.gov/resources/boards-commissions-committees-councils-and-task-forces/iowa-core-science-standards-review-team.

NEWS FROM DISTRICT 96

The gas tax consumed a majority of our time this week. We’ve dissected the bill in caucus with our members. I attended the subcommittees for the bill in the House and Senate. Each chamber introduced the bill and it passed both subcommittees unanimously. Next, it will go to the full Transportation committee for their consideration.

Dave Lubben from Monticello was at the Capitol this week. Dave visited the Statehouse to participate in Grow Ag Iowa Day on the Hill where he met with legislators to discuss agriculture issues. Grow Ag Iowa was here to promote funding for the agriculture research and the diagnostic lab at Iowa State University. Dave and I are pictured below in the rostrum of the House chamber.

hein grow ia ag2015

Todd Hospodarsky visited the Capitol Wednesday. Todd teaches social studies at Monticello High School. He was here supporting social studies and civic education as a part of state standards.

On February 20th, I will be at the Jones County Economic Development Forum at the Lawrence Community Center in Anamosa. It starts at noon and is open to the public.

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) 281-3221.

 Sincerely,

 Rep. Lee Hein

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