Key Democrats in the Iowa legislature say their focus in the 2012 legislative session will be on proposals that help create jobs. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal says they’re working on a commercial property tax break for small- and medium-sized Iowa businesses.
“A tax break that will grow our economy from the ground up,” Gronstal says, “focus on Main Street not Wall Street.”
“Investing” in education to ensure workers and future workers have the right job skills and helping find new ways to convert vacant or abandoned property in Iowa cities are the other two priorities for Democrats, according to Gronstal.
“It’s an agenda — a three-point agenda — and all three points are jobs,” Gronstal says.
Gronstal spoke this morning during a statehouse news conference with House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy suggested Republicans in the House pressed last year for controversial changes in Iowa’s labor laws and a bid to start the process of making gay marriage illegal in Iowa.
“It’s the main reason why we went on three months longer than we should have because we spent all session focusing on these divisive issues instead of focusing on balancing the budget and priorities that average Iowans want us to focus on,” McCarthy said. “Contrast that to now.”
According to McCarthy, legislators have worked in the past six months to come up with some “bipartisan” solutions on key issues like commercial property tax relief and redesigning Iowa’s mental health care system. McCarthy also points to the governor’s education reform effort.
“Obviously, the governor is going to release his specific proposals tomorrow morning,” McCarthy said. “We don’t know exactly what they are, but he’s gone about it the right way. We’ve had a seat at the table over and over again as we’ve had these discussions…so we feel going into this session particularly contrasted with where we were last year.”
Governor Branstad has scheduled an 8:30 a.m. news conference on Friday to unveil his final set of education reform recommendations for the legislature. An initial “blueprint” called for a three-tiered teacher pay system, with the highest-paid teachers in the top level serving as mentors, but Branstad tabled that part of the plan in November.