Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Jan. 29, 2021.
Editorial: Lundgren’s work on grant program will help keep Iowa businesses afloat
One of the things that makes Iowa Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, an effective lawmaker is her firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing small business in the state.
As owner and operator of Trackside Bar and Grill in Peosta, Lundgren is particularly well versed in what bars and restaurants have gone through in the past year in trying to adapt and survive amid the pandemic. That gave Lundgren a key vantage point in helping shape what state assistance for small businesses in Iowa might look like. Thankfully, Gov. Kim Reynolds listened.
Last week’s announcement that the Iowa Restaurant and Bar Relief Grant Program would provide one-time grants of up to $25,000 to businesses whose gross sales decreased in the second and third quarters of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 was equivalent to a life preserver tossed to these establishments.
After weeks of calls — including from this Editorial Board — for the state to spend some of its fat surplus to help struggling Iowa businesses battle through this year, Reynolds announced the state would spend up to $40 million on the grant program.
That’s a great use of taxpayer dollars — to buoy Iowa businesses that might otherwise be lost to the pandemic. Requiring businesses to show year over year losses adds a piece of accountability not present in some federal aid.
Reynolds specifically thanked Lundgren for her work planning the program with Iowa Economic Development Authority, work that began last summer. On behalf of all Iowans, we add our gratitude as well.
It’s encouraging when elected officials set aside their partisan identities and come together for the good of the people. Such is the case among Iowa’s delegation when it comes to the Renewable Fuel Standard.
U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, reached out to President Joe Biden, urging him to revoke small oil refinery exemption waivers issued in the last days of the Trump administration. These waivers were the first issued since September, when then-President Donald Trump finally began denying them after years of pressure by Corn Belt lawmakers. The waivers exempt specific refiners from following renewable fuel standards.
Gov. Kim Reynolds stepped up on Tuesday, vowing to work with the Biden administration and state lawmakers on a multimillion-dollar effort to help the biofuels industry recover from the pandemic.
With former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack returning to the role of U.S. secretary of agriculture, and strong support for renewables from Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Iowa farmers are in position to see the strength of the Renewable Fuel Standard restored.
A proposal for a Fortune 500 multinational company to occupy a new warehousing, assembly and distribution facility in the Platteville (Wis.) Industrial Park makes for an exciting opportunity at a time when communities are hungry for positive economic news.
Platteville Common Council members on Tuesday initiated the process to consolidate five parcels in the industrial park into a nearly 21-acre lot, paving the way for a proposed $20 million project that, if finalized, would be the largest in the park’s history.
Although the details haven’t all been revealed, the opportunity to bring quality jobs to Platteville and the tri-state area opens new doors for the region.
Credit goes to Platteville officials for putting the building blocks in place to bring this incredible project to the table, including preparing the site with road access and utilities. Another engine that powers economic development projects is community partnerships, which the area has with Platteville Area Industrial Development Corp., Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College and University of Wisconsin-Platteville all working together with city officials.
We’re excited to see this amazing possibility come to full bloom in Platteville.
Des Moines Register. Jan. 29, 2021.
Editorial: Another legislative session, another GOP push to siphon money from Iowa’s public schools
It’s deja vu.
Republicans controlling the Iowa Legislature and governor’s office are focused on making sure everyone can have a gun, no one has an abortion and state and local government is further starved by tax cuts. You’d think after four years in charge, they’d get some new ideas.
Enter more proposals for “school choice.”
That phrase, as everyone knows by now, is an attempt to put lipstick on the pig of siphoning taxpayer money from public schools to funnel to private schools. And, largely, to Christian schools. Also, largely, to help families that already have the resources to send their kids to private schools.
This year’s most prominent version of the same tired idea comes from Gov. Kim Reynolds. Among the bad proposals in her 65-page bill, an amended version of which the Senate passed Thursday: Use public education dollars for a new “students first scholarship fund.”
The amount of each scholarship would be a portion of the per-pupil funding the student’s public school district would have received. (See sentence above about siphoning money from public schools).
If the GOP wants to focus on schools, members could, of course, choose to improve the quality of education in this state for all young people. They could adequately fund public schools to help them retain teachers, reduce class sizes, offer more courses, provide additional help to struggling students and all the other things districts are already trying to do with too little money.
But Republican officials do not seem interested in shoring up public education. And they are calling the shots. They will pass whatever education “reforms” they want, and there isn’t anything Democrats in the minority can do about it.
So let’s at least recognize the latest “school choice” proposal for the farce it is. Let’s at least recognize reality. And the reality is that Iowa parents already have numerous options for educating their kids.
This state has more than 350 public school districts. Current open enrollment law allows most students to move between districts.
There is the option of sending kids to private schools — and tax-advantaged options to pay for them.
Beginning in 2018, qualified education expenses for federal tax benefit purposes include K-12 tuition at public, private or religious schools, up to $10,000 per year per student. Iowa taxpayers can use their College Savings Iowa 529 Plan assets to pay for K-12 tuition with no state tax consequences as long as students are attending an accredited school in this state.
Parents have the option of enrolling children in one of the entirely online schools that partnered with two rural school districts. You can live anywhere in the state and “send” your kid to school on a computer at home all day. Taxpayers foot the bill with public education money paid to the for-profit, out-of-state companies operating these schools.
Then there is the option of homeschooling in Iowa. Parents have three alternatives for that, including one called Independent Private Instruction. It allows parents to keep kids home and provide, if they wish, absolutely no education at all. With Independent Private Instruction, there are no educational standards or tests or visits from any education official.
Do Iowans need more choices?
And the more money the GOP insists on robbing from public schools, the fewer educational options there will be for the 500,000 students who attend them.
Less money to your local high school may mean less opportunity for everything from math courses to extracurricular activities. Less money to the elementary school down the street may mean bigger kindergarten classes or no art supplies.
Granted, some Iowa parents and students have legitimate complaints about their local schools. Children with disabilities do not receive enough help. Advanced students may not be challenged. Test scores are low. The food isn’t great. You don’t like the English teacher. (Many of those same complaints, valid or not, are directed at private schools).
The answer is not to loot state funding for public education.
The answer is to value and fund public education.
The answer is to return Iowa to the roots that anchored a strong learning foundation for future generations.
Fort Dodge Messenger. Jan. 28, 2021.
Editorial: Low state unemployment figure is positive sign. Iowa’s rate is much lower than rest of the nation
Iowa continues to get some good news on the jobs front as the state’s economy gradually rebounds from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In December 2020, the state’s unemployment rate stood at 3.1 percent.
That marks a healthy decline from the November 2020 unemployment rate of 3.8 percent.
Perhaps most significantly, the Iowa unemployment rate is well below the nationwide figure of 6.7 percent.
According to Iowa Workforce Development, 9,700 new non-farm jobs were created between November and December 2020. The retail sector led the way with 5,400 new jobs; manufacturing was next with 3,800 new jobs.
Clearly, things are starting to look up in Iowa. The drop in the unemployment rate tells us that people who lost their jobs in the darkest days of the pandemic last spring are getting back to work.
We must acknowledge that even with the unemployment rate dropping to 3.1 percent, there are still too many hard-working Iowans that need a job. Iowa Workforce Development calculated that there were 50,800 people looking for work in December.
But the release of this latest unemployment figure offers hope that better times are coming.
We believe it is difficult, if not impossible, to attribute this positive development to a single policy or decision. However, it is worth noting that Gov. Kim Reynolds and other state leaders have pursued a course of action that has kept most Iowa businesses open throughout the pandemic. That certainly helps to keep Iowa’s unemployment rate well below that of the nation.
We urge leaders in the private and public sectors to keep working together to get our economy out of the COVID-19 induced doldrums and back into a growth pattern that will benefit everyone.