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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Money issues are focus of local legislative forum

Monday, February 4, 2013

Iowa State Rep. Chuck Soderberg, R-Le Mars, (left) and Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson, discuss federal and state budget issues during a legislative forum. About 20 people attended the forum at the Le Mars Public Library Saturday.
Federal and state dollars dominated discussions Iowa Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson, and Rep. Chuck Soderberg, R-Le Mars, had with area residents Saturday.

Anderson and Soderberg hosted a monthly legislative forum at the Le Mars Public Library.

Some of the dollars discussed were for senior citizens programs.

Mary Ann Arens, of Le Mars, asked the lawmakers to support dollars for home-based and community-based services for older adults.

She serves on the Siouxland Aging Services Board of Directors.

Arens said money is being reduced for programs such as Meals on Wheels, transportation and in-home care provided through homemaker program hours.

"For every person that goes to the nursing home, we could serve six in their own home," Arens said.

Anderson expects the funding changes to be discussed by lawmakers this session.

Congregate meal sites in Pierson and Kingsley have been closed, he said.

"Beyond just the meal being served, it was a place for those folks to come and socialize and stay sharp," Anderson said. "I definitely see the value of what you're talking about here."

He told Arens he'd be supportive.

"I think the majority party probably will come forward with something, too," Anderson told her.

As a Republican, he is in the minority because Democrats have the majority of seats in the Iowa Senate.

During the forum Saturday, Anderson said indicated he was able to be more involved in legislative just three weeks into the session than he will later on.

"We're in the committee process right now so we actually do have the opportunity to voice our concerns in committees and sub-committees," he said.

Once floor debate begins that changes for him as a minority member of the Senate.

"We don't know what's coming -- it really is about the majority party in the House and the Senate and the governor at that point," Anderson explained.

Both Anderson and Soderberg predicted there would be fewer federal dollars for the new state budget.

The state collects almost 50 percent of the money that it spends from federal sources, Soderberg said.

"We used to collect about $7 billion; now it's $6 billion," he said. "That's expected to go down by several hundred million more and that's funding for Medicaid, education, transportation, etc."

As federal funds decrease, the lawmakers need to build the reductions into the state budget, he added.

Both Soderberg and Anderson cautioned against spending the money the state has in an ending balance for ongoing programs.

"If we are going to use some of that one-time money, let's use it on one-time projects -- let's fix our roads, let's fix our bridges, let's use the money for that," Anderson said.

Mark Bohner, of Le Mars, suggested money for soil conservation projects be considered, for one-time projects along with bridges and roads.

"That's a one-time expense that we could get caught up with some of the backlog that's in that area," he said.

Anderson and Soderberg also discussed the revenue side of the budget process when they met with area residents this past weekend.

Revenue coming into the state treasury reflected strong numbers for the first six months of the state budget year, Soderberg said Saturday.

"I don't anticipate that will continue for the rest of the fiscal year," he said.

Soderberg cited uncertainty in the economy such as the impact of the federal payroll tax increase of 2 percent that began Jan.1.

"The average household income in Iowa is $50,000 -- that's $1,000 less people will have to spend," Soderberg said.

The impact of drought and health care reform, known as the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress, are other unknowns for the state's revenue, Soderberg said.

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