On Jan. 9, two new faces of local government made an appearance at Dyersville’s Country Junction, giving a snapshot of the 2013 session to 30 local city and business leaders.
During the luncheon, newly elected State Rep. Nancy Dunkel and State Sen. Tod Bowman both cited a number of bills that will receive scrutiny in Des Moines, among them the Gas Tax and commercial property tax streams. But Iowa’s transition to mental health regionalization expects to be a debate “right out of the blocks,” according to Bowman.
It presents a unique challenge for the state senator, who absorbed most of Dubuque County after redistricting. He now represents two counties (the second being Jackson County) that plan to join two different regions, meaning he may be asked to argue on different sides of the same issue.
“Each county has different needs in that transition fund for mental health,” Bowman said. “(The challenge is) trying to keep both groups happy.”
Later, he added, “These counties are saying, ‘Hey, we can’t accomplish what you want us to accomplish with this little funding.’ They’re not whining. They’re saying these are our needs.”
To Bowman, it’s another scenario where government tries to find a one-size-fits-all way of delegating. Metropolitan counties, such as Dubuque, have opted to group others with similar population.
The drawback, he said, is this will add another level to an already complicated system.
“You kind of get these layers within layers of government that complicate any kind of policy,” Bowman said.
After introductory remarks, the forum was opened for questions. Economic growth took focus, specifically, discussions about shifting property taxes.
“I kind of wondered why the legislature is worried about property tax,” said Jim Heavens, Dyersville mayor. “I’m all for lowering commercial property tax… I think that if you want to do something with property tax, I’d say do it with your money and not with ours. I think somewhere that’s going to come back to homeowners again.”
The mayor was alluding to an issue that Bowman said has existed since before he took office.
“All the questions are still out there,” Bowman said. “For us to get something passed… it’s going to have to be pieces of something from all the groups.”
He added, there’s a sentiment from voters to “just get it done.”
“I wish I could wave my magic wand and have that happen, but it doesn’t work that way. There’s a lot of competing groups with some of these issues.”
Dunkel expressed anticipation for her seats on the appropriations, agriculture and economic growth committees, something she said fits her background as a former banker. In response to questions about ways Iowa can attract new business, she said she expects more ideas about growing small business to carry weight.
“I would venture to guess Iowa’s in good shape today because of some of those things we’ve done in the past,” Dunkel said. She cited instances where Tax Increment Financing and the Iowa Economic Development Authority were tools for small towns to attract business. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that could be a good argument to go forward.”
As the forum closed, both legislators encouraged constituents to contact them during session. Dunkel is in her first term at the House while Bowman inherits Sen. Tom Hancock’s former district.