2018 State Public Policy Agenda

The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance is focused on the growth of our business community. We work with our members to prioritize needs and implement strategies that make local businesses and our region successful. Our public policy strategy is to provide a unified voice of our members to advocate for pro-growth and pro-business policies.

Together with input from our over 1,200-member companies, our governance leadership, local municipalities and other strategic partners, we develop our yearly legislative agenda. While all the policy positions included in the Economic Alliance’s legislative agenda are important, the Economic Alliance will focus on the following priorities during the 2018 session:

  • Funding for curriculum and programs that develop workforce needs
  • Meaningful tax reform
  • Protecting economic development tax credit programs

BUILDING OUR WORKFORCE

Immediate workforce solutions: Iowa must collaborate with our community colleges to maximize worker training opportunities. We support funding of skill training for existing workers and programs, such as IowaBIG, that encourage students to enter needed sector professions. This includes funding programs such as the National Career Readiness Certification program, Career and Technical Education (CTE), Iowa’s Apprenticeship Program, transportation support for lower income workers, STEM internships, and STEM activities in K-12 education, such as computer science programing.
  • HF2493 adds $1 million for the Registered Apprenticeship Program, maintains $1 million for STEM scholarships, adds $250,000 for a new Summer Youth Intern Pilot Program and $150,000 for a Future Ready Iowa Coordinator (signed into law 6/1/18).
  • SF2353 conforms state workforce development and local workforce development boards to state law and requires more business representation on the boards. (signed into law 5/16/18).
Education to Workforce Pipeline: All levels of education must have alignment and coordination with the business community to build a solid talent pipeline and produce workforce-ready graduates. Iowa must continue adherence to the Iowa Core with quality state-funded assessment tools, and it should update vocation education to bring Iowa’s schools back to world-class competitiveness. We encourage the Legislature to examine ways to modernize and improve the education funding formula in a way that serves all school districts and allows school boards to effectively manage their financial resources to meet their responsibilities. Schools need predictability and certainty in their funding. The process in place today is not functioning and is due for a change to give schools predictability, and also allow for the broader state budget discussions to take place.
  • HF2235 awarded the University of Iowa a statewide assessment test contract to ensure students take exams that align with the state's learning expectations. (Signed into law on 3/2/2018).
  • HF2230 determined the basic state aid to Iowa’s K-12 schools. We would have liked to have seen a larger increase but are pleased the determination was made early (Signed into law on 3/7/2018).
  • HF2493 restores earlier de-appropriations to state universities, funds the Future Ready Iowa worked-based learning clearinghouse, summer joint enrollment program and statewide assessment testing (signed into law 6/1/18).
  • HF2493 restores earlier de-appropriations for community colleges and increased their funding by $1.5 million, funds $5 million for the Skilled Workforce Shortage Grant and $15.1 million to the Workforce Training & Economic Development Funds and $1.5 million (signed into law 6/1/18).
Long-term workforce strategy: Iowa’s workforce challenges remain a concern. We support the Future Ready Iowa initiatives to enhance our local efforts to build Iowa’s talent pipeline. We particularly want to accelerate the Future Ready Iowa recommendation that the State engage regional collaborations such as our Cedar Rapids Iowa City Corridor Development initiative in aligning with, promoting and executing these initiatives.
  • HF2458 implements the Future Ready Iowa recommendations to help address the state’s skills gap and skilled worker shortage challenges (signed into law 4/3/2018).

IMPROVING OUR BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT

Tax Improvements: Lowering and simplifying income taxes for corporate and personal income taxpayers is critical to make Iowa competitive in realizing economic growth. Simplification of tax and regulatory systems, including eliminating federal deductibility, streamlining the permit process and the immediate determination of federal tax “coupling” is essential to business and job growth. We support a comprehensive review of the state tax code, not a fragmentary approach that would threaten our ability to attract and retain businesses.
  • SF2417 eliminates federal deductibility corporate income tax in FY2021, restructures the brackets and rates from four to three, phases in the deduction for Qualified Business Income (QBI) to 100% of federal by 2023 and increase the cap on Section 179 expensing, eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and eventually automatically couples to the federal code. (signed into law 5/30/18).
Healthy Business Climate: Rules and regulations that affect business should be regularly evaluated for necessity, effectiveness, cost-efficiency, enforceability and financial impact. Predictability, stability and consistency must be recognized as a critical component of a healthy business climate. A business-minded approach to government, including sound spending practices that do not outpace growth, is encouraged. We support the following:
  • Government that is cost-effective and responsive to business needs and finding innovative ways to use tax dollars more efficiently while improving services.
  • Full funding of the state’s existing budget obligations, including promised backfill to local governments related to the property tax reforms of 2013.
  • Review and cost-benefit analysis of agency rules and regulations in cooperation with affected businesses and organizations, as well as allow for more opportunities for public input.
    • SF2349 allows for employers to form association health plans to provide for more affordable healthcare plans, providing more options for small businesses to insure employees. (Signed into law on 4/2/2018).
    • No legislation passed the legislature to eliminate the state’s commitment on backfill.
Development & Investment Tools: Development incentives that help fuel economic growth and job creation are critical to improving economic opportunities for all Iowans. Fully funding the incentives budget under the High Quality Jobs Program will position Iowa to close the deal on highly-competitive projects. Funding flexible incentives and protecting tax credit programs is imperative if Iowa wants to effectively compete for investment and jobs and retain and recruit projects. In addition, local economic development tools, such as tax increment financing (TIF) are an invaluable and an integral piece of Iowa’s economic development efforts. We support reasonable usage of TIF and oppose any efforts to weaken it.
  • HF2493 restores the early IEDA de-appropriation, adds another $13,379 to the agency’s line item, partially restores the reduction in the High Quality Jobs Program to $13 million (still $2.9 million less than originally budgeted in current year) and funds the Regents’ economic development programs at$8.7 million (signed into law 6/1/18).
  • Saw no final legislative action on change to TIF.
Fostering Entrepreneurism & Job Creation: We support economic development programs and tax incentives that attract quality jobs, foster innovation and entrepreneurship and start-ups, and help put Iowa over the top for businesses looking for a place to invest. We support funding for small business development and programs that foster entrepreneurial endeavors.
  • SF2417 extends the Innovation Fund Tax Credit (signed into law 6/1/18).

ENHANCING OUR COMMUNITY

Community Attractions: Iowa needs to keep more Iowans in the state and attract new populations to make their home here and contribute to economic growth. Part of accomplishing that is creating desirable and robust communities with a great “quality of place.” The state can partner with local governments on this strategy by securing sustained, reliable funding for the Enhance Iowa initiative.
  • SF2414 provides $1 million in funding for Great Places ($1 million), $5 million for CAT grants. $500,00 for Regional Sports Authorities and $1 million for trails. (signed into law 6/1/18).
  • SF2414 make Cedar Lake eligible for the state’s Lake Restoration Program (signed into law 6/1/18).
Infrastructure Improvements: High quality and reliable infrastructure systems are central to economic growth. We encourage long-term planning and examination of innovative funding mechanisms to make the necessary resources available for significant capital investment improvements. We support the following:
  • Funding sources and flexible policies to sufficiently address needed water infrastructure improvements in the future, including full funding of the Iowa Flood Center to help mitigate and manage the watershed of the Cedar River.The examination of the long-term funding needs within the Road Use Tax Fund to sustain Iowa’s transportation infrastructure.
  • Enforcement technologies used to increase safety in targeted dangerous areas.
  • A concerted effort to attract broadband investment, in order to put in place the broadband infrastructure for our economic future, including funding of the Connect Every Acre grant program and the adoption of a regulatory climate that encourages private investment.
  • A commercial aviation infrastructure plan that invests the resources necessary to allow Iowa businesses to compete in a global marketplace.
    • SF512 provides approximately $280 million for water quality initiatives over the next 12 year and establishes a water quality infrastructure fund with in the Iowa Department of Ag to support conservation infrastructure. (Signed into law 1/31/2018).
    • Attempts were made to ban public safety technologies, such as traffic cameras, but ultimately the Iowa Supreme Court ruled them allowable.
    • HF2415 provides for over $1 million in funding for the Iowa Flood Center. (signed into law 6/1/18).

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