|Mahaska County Legislators Start Work at the Statehouse|
|Friday, 18 January 2013 11:48|
It's the first week at the Iowa Legislature and two new people represent Mahaska County at the Capitol in Des Moines. Former County Supervisor Ken Rozenboom just started his service as a state senator. Larry Sheets was elected in November to represent the western portion of Mahaska County in the Iowa House of Representatives. State Representative Guy Vander Linden from Oskaloosa is the veteran of the delegation from Mahaska County. He's starting his second term.
A number of issues are on the table at the statehouse already including the state budget, a fiscal surplus, and education. Aaron Riggs spoke with all three legislators to find out more.
They were hired last november and this week they finally got their feet wet.
"Kinda liken to drinkin' water out of a fire hose though, just an awful lot all at once," says Larry Sheets.
"That's a good thing to say, you're drinking water from a fire hose," says Ken Rozenboom.
There's no lack of issues or tasks as a legislator and one of the big priorities now is what to do with some extra money. The state is starting off the year with a $1 billion surplus.
"I don't think of it as a surplus, it's an overpayment by the tax payers of Iowa. Thanks to some good budgeting on the part of the legislature and the governor," says Guy Vander Linden.
"We have extra money that we've collected from people, from tax payers. So appropriations, how we spend money, I'm on the appropriations committee, and I'm really delighted to be on that because that's where it all starts in terms of how we spend money," says Rozenboom.
And one of the big budget items every year is education. During his Condition of the State address on Tuesday, Governor Terry Branstad proposed changes to the school finance formula, which may include doing away with what is known as allowable growth. Allowable growth is the formula the state uses every year to give money to schools. It's on a per-student basis so schools receive state money according to how many pupils they have. That means schools with fewer students get less money, which is especially a problem for rural areas that are losing population.
"The allowable growth thing for small schools like Molton and other schools has been sort of like the angel of death and the fact that he's talking about getting away from that and trying to substitute something that is hopefully better that, that's a very encouraging," says Sheets.
"I think if we have a system that people don't understand is complicated maybe it is time to take a look at the fundamentals," says Rozenboom.
"Allowable growth triggers property tax increase and of course we're trying to decrease property taxes so we're sort of at cross purposes there. I'll be very interested to see how he plans to sort this out," says Vander Linden.
And as the legislators meet for the next four months, their outlook is positive.
"We've got unemployment statewide down below 5% that's the best it's been in four years, I think there's some indications we're makin' modest progress and I want to keep moving in that direction," says Vander Linden.
"I'm here to do the peoples job, and if I can represent them then I will have done the job I was sent here to do," says Sheets.
"I wear a different hat now but in a way i'm doing the same thing I did back there and that's what I consider to be public service," says Rozenboom.