August 22, 2014

Governor optimistic on property tax reform, less so on education reform prospects

Republican Governor Terry Branstad is expressing optimism about prospects for an agreement on property tax reform, but the governor admits lawmakers may not be able to pass an education reform plan this year.

Late this week Democrats and Republicans in the legislature unveiled the “framework” for a deal that primarily would cut commercial property taxes, but would also address a few other tax issues. For the past two years Branstad has made commercial property tax reduction his highest priority.

“This thing has been around for 30 years and it’s time that we get something accomplished and a permanent property tax reduction for commercial/industrial, but also protecting other classes of property,” Branstad says. “I think we have a framework agreed upon and just as some of the details may yet have to be worked out, just as it has been on the budget, but I feel confident it can get done and will be done and this session should not get done without it being completed.”

The governor also held an “education summit” last summer and unveiled a series of education reforms last fall. Branstad blames Senate Democrats for standing in the way of “bold” reform.

“Whether we’re going to be able to get something meaningful agreed upon this session or not, I don’t know,” Branstad says. “But I’m committed to this for the long term and if we don’t get it done this year, we’ll be back working for it next year.”

Branstad had already pegged next year as the time for tackling teacher pay issues, which are not addressed in any plan legislators crafted this year.

“My focus and my committment to education reform and to improving student achievement will continue to be very strong,” Branstad says. “And we’re going to work very hard for this because I think it’s one of the most important things we can do for our kids and for them being prepared for the jobs of the future.”

All legislators balked at Branstad’s idea of requiring college students maintain a 3.0 grade average if they’re getting a teaching degree. House Republicans voted this year to end the practice of “last hired, first fired” when it comes to teachers, arguing the worst teachers — regardless of tenure — should be at the top of any layoff list. Senate Democrats rejected that idea.