By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
It appears that Republican leaders in the Iowa House and Senate are getting closer to an agreement on tax reform and the state budget. The House is proposing an increase in state spending of $235 million and a $7.5 billion budget. The Senate is proposing $5 million less overall, with slightly more for education and human services, and slightly less for the “standing appropriations” bill and justice systems.
Regarding tax reform, the Senate has proposed a $2 billion tax cut over five years for corporate and personal income taxes. The Senate has also proposed ending federal deductibility and adding a tax on credit unions. Its bill also includes an increase in the School Tuition Organization tax credit to help raise money for scholarships to attend nonpublic school.
The House tax cut is about $1.2 billion over five years and is aimed at the individual income tax.
Both proposals expand Iowa’s 529 plan to include nonpublic K-12 school tuition. This will help many private school parents save some money on their tax bills.
Still left undecided is the fate of a proposal to stop abortions after a heartbeat can be detected. There’s still time to let members of the Iowa House know what you think!
It’s time to re-up the federal Farm Bill. That always makes for interesting discussions because the Farm Bill includes the reauthorization of many agricultural programs in addition to the food stamp program, now called “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” or SNAP.
The first version of the Farm Bill has passed the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. In a letter to the House Ag leadership last week, leaders of Catholic Relief Services, National Catholic Rural Life, Catholic Charities USA and St. Vincent de Paul noted several items of importance in the bill, including the SNAP program, international development and food security, agriculture subsidies, as well as rural development and conservation programs.
Almost all people on SNAP are required to work or look for work. The letter supports workforce training improvements in the SNAP program but asks for greater investments to help states to establish and evaluate job training programs. The letter also asks that states such as Iowa be allowed to keep so-called “categorical eligibility” for SNAP. This is a policy in which households may become categorically eligible for SNAP because they qualify for another public assistance program. Otherwise many people may lose their benefits and face the “heat or eat” dilemma.
The Catholics Confront Global Poverty group of the U.S. bishops has an action alert on the international food security parts of the Farm Bill which include support for Food for Peace, McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Food for Progress.
For more information, visit the ICC website at iowacatholicconference.org.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)