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Legislators discuss tax reform, mental health at legislative coffee

Creston News Advertiser - 3/5/2018

March 05--State Sen. Tom Shipley and State Rep. Tom Moore fielded questions from a crowd of nearly 30 people during Saturday morning's legislative coffee event held at the Creston restored Depot congregate mealsite.

One of the biggest topics of the day was the tax reform bill the Iowa Senate has been working on.

Randy Hughes, retired Southwestern Community College and Creston High School history instructor, and a former state legislator himself, asked about decreasing revenue.

"I'm not good with math, but it seems like the state can't pay its bills now, and if we reduce revenue, how's that going to serve the public interest?" Hughes said.

Shipley responded by saying there is evidence from other states that when the government lets its constituents keep their own money, they will spend it.

"We also lose a lot of people to other states," Shipley said.

He went on to describe one of his constituents who is a multimillionaire, but has his legal residence in Florida to avoid paying Iowa's income tax.

Another example Shipley gave was of two retired Hy-Vee store directors in his district who have built homes in Nebraska as opposed to Iowa because of the difference in taxes.

"We also know many pensions are taxed. This reforms the tax on pensions. Many of those people leave the state when they retire because they're not going to pay that onerous of a tax on pensions if they stay here," he said. "We have not reformed the tax code in a long, long time. Trust me, this thing is a long way from being done."

Moore added the State House of Representatives is working on its own version of a tax reform bill with the hopes of building on the federal tax reform.

He said the federal tax reform bill put more money in Iowans' pockets, but triggered a tax increase in Iowa law where for every $12 a person got back from the federal tax reform, it cost them $1 in Iowa.

"That's not a huge increase, but we in the house think that's not our money to spend. That's your money," Moore said. "The federal tax reform gave you that money back. That's our starting point. We're working on making it simpler, making it fair, gearing it to the middle class and trying to deal with tax credits and keeping in mind how that affects the budget."

Shipley added that even though he always hears about how the tax reform bill has been rushed, it has been worked on for a year and a half.

"It's designed to make Iowa's tax environment more competitive," Shipley said.

Mental health

Moore reported to the audience the Iowa House passed two bills last week he thinks will be critical for the state of Iowa.

One of the bills is aimed at combating the growing opioid issue in Iowa.

"That is going to save lives," Moore said. "And, it's going to set up the means by which we reduce the ability for people to doctor shop. What I mean by that is they can go from doctor to doctor to doctor to get their opioids to continue with their addiction. There are many things in that bill that are very positive for the state of Iowa."

House File 2377 would place limits on opioid prescriptions, implement Good Samaritan laws for those who report overdoses and require physicians to file every prescription electronically to cut down on forgeries.

The other major bill passed through the Iowa House last week was a comprehensive mental health bill.

House File 2456 now sits before the Iowa Senate after it was passed by the House last week.

The bill expands mental-health services, including the addition of six regional access centers, which would help people who are having mental-health crises but do not need hospitalization.

Moore said those access centers will keep sheriffs from having to look for beds all across the state. The addition of the six regional centers will open up the number of beds to an unlimited status around the state.

"I've only been there, 2 1/2 years, I haven't been there very long, but there are some people saying this might be one of the best bills that Iowa has passed in many years," Moore said. "We're really proud of those two things we passed bipartisan this week."


(c)2018 the Creston News Advertiser (Creston, Iowa)

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