Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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March 6, 2011

Sullivan’s Salvos 3/8/11

In this edition:

*Happy Mardis Gras!
*Income in Johnson County
*Income Tax Issues
*Night of 1,000 Dinners
*Did You Know?

*Happy Mardis Gras!
March 8 is Fat Tuesday, the 9th is Ash Wednesday, and Easter is 40 days away. Sounds like a reason to celebrate! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

*Income in Johnson County
As you may know, the United Way of Johnson County recently did a comprehensive Community Needs Assessment. While there is a lot of fascinating information in the study, one of the most interesting tidbits is the division of Johnson County households into income quintiles.

What does that mean? First, you take every person in Johnson County and divide them into households. A household can be a single adult, two roommates, or a family with two parents and 6 kids. The key is maintaining a separate household.

Then you take the households, and divide them into fifths based upon income. So you get the poorest 20%, the lower middle 20%, the middle 20%, the upper middle 20%, and the wealthiest 20%.

The numbers are as follows: The wealthiest 20% of households earn a mean of $171,000 annually. The next wealthiest 20% earns $82,000. The middle 20% earns $53,000. The lower middle 20% earns $31,000. Finally, the poorest 20% earns about $11,000.

So, let’s analyze the numbers. Obviously, the large number of students in Johnson County skews our lowest quintile down. But a person whose only income is Social Security often earns less than $11,000 per year. So this quintile includes some students, yes, but also many seniors and people with disabilities.

A fifth of the households average $31,000 in annual income. According to the United Way, a two adult, two child household needs to make $25/hour just to meet basic needs. (That could be one wage earner at $25/hour, or two at $12.50 each.)

Obviously, almost 40% of our residents are not making it! We need to reach the middle quintile, with an average income of $53,000, before families are living comfortably.

Keep this in mind when you hear people say we do not need affordable housing in this community. The statistics do not lie – we clearly have nearly 40% of our households who meet the definition of “housing burdened”.

Also keep this in mind when you hear people talking about being “middle class”. I frequently hear bankers, attorneys, and others talk about being “middle class”. They clearly are NOT middle class by Johnson County standards!

I am not middle class, either, for that matter. Melissa and I each make $50,000. Our household’s $100,000 income puts us in the second-wealthiest quintile. I imagine most Salvos readers are in the top two quintiles as well.

For the wealthiest 20%, the average income is $171,000 annually. That works out to over $80/hour. Not many union positions pay $80/hour.

Why do I bring this up? Because we are generally ignorant as to the facts on income distribution in our community. We are going to talk soon about income taxes. Who can and should pay? We are NOT all equal when it comes to finances. Clearly, a small portion of the public holds the vast majority of the wealth.

*Income Tax Issues
From the Iowa Fiscal Partnership: House File 194 provides a 20% cut in Iowa’s individual income tax rates. The issue is not just that the state of Iowa, recovering from a recession and major cuts to education and other public services, cannot afford such a tax cut and sustain essential public services — though that issue is very real. The Fiscal Note for HF194 puts the cost at $330 million for FY2012, $704.1 million for FY2013, $711.5 million for FY2014, and $750.6 million in FY2015. This comes when Iowans are told revenues are low.

The problem also is that such a tax cut is very much misdirected, taking Iowa tax policy further down the path of helping the wealthiest the most.

This is a trend building since the mid-1990s, starting with a 10 percent cut in income tax rates in 1997. Since then, Iowa lawmakers have passed more income-tax cuts, avoided equitable income-tax reform, and raised and encouraged local governments to raise sales and property taxes, which take a greater share of income of low-income and middle-income taxpayers than of high-income taxpayers.

HF194 provides yet another windfall for the wealthiest. According to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the effect of the tax cut will average $18 for taxpayers in the lowest quintile of Iowa taxpayers (with incomes below $21,000) and $6,822 for taxpayers in the top 1 percent of Iowa taxpayers (with incomes of 358,000 or more).

While the bottom one-fifth of Iowa taxpayers see their overall taxes (sales, property and income combined) reduced by about 1.6 percent, the top 1 percent see their overall tax burden reduced by about 9.3 percent. Further, a disproportionate share of those in the top 1 percent of income are out-of-state tax filers who made profits in Iowa and they (and their home states) would be big beneficiaries of such cuts.

*Night of 1,000 Dinners
The Iowa United Nations Association (Iowa UNA) is holding its annual Night of 1,000 Dinners on Thursday, March 10 at 6PM at Old Brick. Tickets are $12 advance/$15 door.

In recognition of International Women's Month, the Iowa UNA will be holding the annual "Night of 1,000 Dinners" to fundraise for UN Women's missions in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Haiti. Formerly known as UNIFEM, UN Women seeks to aid and empower women in conflict zones, natural disaster areas, and socially repressive societies.

The event will feature: A silent art auction with all proceeds going to UN Women! Over $400 in door prizes! An international buffet! International music! Featured speaker Martine SongaSonga, a Chicago-based Congo human rights activist.

Ticket sales for the event will help Iowa UNA, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, continue its annual programs and fundraisers including "Night of 1,000 Dinners". To learn more about UN Women (formerly UNIFEM), please visit To learn more about Iowa UNA, please visit

*DID YOU KNOW? The 2010 average cost of a new single family home in Johnson County was $344,307. That is up dramatically from the 2009 average of $258,668.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

"Sullivan’s Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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