Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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January 31, 2014

Sullivan’s Salvos     2/4/14

In this edition:

*Iowa’s Budget Giveaways
*Hummus For Haiti – Still Time!
*Local Food Summit
*Free Tax Help
*Did You Know?

*Iowa’s Budget Giveaways
         The Iowa Legislature is back in session. And I just don’t care. I have never had lower expectations. Much of my disillusionment stems from last session, when the Legislature passed the biggest tax cut in state history.

         That cut will hurt us for decades. Maybe half a century. I was going to write about the impact, but my friend Mike Owen from the Iowa Policy Project beat me to it. A very slightly edited version of his piece is reprinted below.

Iowa’s 2014 legislative session opens with a budget dilemma: how to set a sustainable course for the future while dealing with the consequences of new tax cuts and other decisions in 2013.  

The state started off FY2013 with a surplus of almost a billion dollars and lawmakers responded with moderate gains for the middle class. They doubled the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit for hardworking but low paid Iowa families, expanded health care coverage, assured no tuition increases at state universities, and restored some funding for other essential services that had been cut back.

However, these gains are all imperiled by one of the biggest tax giveaways in the state’s history — the property tax cuts enacted in that same 2013 legislative session — and a decision to give away millions of the surplus in a regressive set of smaller tax credits.

Revenue is expected to grow in FY2015 by 4.5 percent as the Iowa economy continues to rebound. Even with this level of growth, however, revenues will not be sufficient to cover estimated commitments. As a result, the end-of-year surplus is expected to shrink by over $230 million. Built-in expenditures and the state school aid formula will require most of the estimated revenue increase.

Then, when the $128.7 million cost of the property tax bill is included, estimated net appropriations of $7.07 billion will exceed estimated receipts ($6.98 billion) by $88.1 million. Funding that shortfall will require dipping into the remaining dollars from the FY2014 surplus.

It’s not just the state budget that will be affected. Since the legislation did not absorb all the cost of the property tax cuts in the state budget, local governments will lose $741 million over 10 years. This will put strain on public services like fire and police protection, local libraries, parks, hospitals, elementary and high schools, and streets and public transit.

In addition to the property tax cuts, several other tax changes already in place for this year and next will have an impact on services. One is that many business tax credits have been modified, with caps raised to significantly increase potential spending through the tax code. These changes will cost the state nearly $475 million by FY 2024.

Another major change was the creation of the Taxpayers Trust Fund income tax credit, which will commit funds from the Taxpayers Trust Fund for the foreseeable future. The cost to the treasury in the current year is over $90 million, for a tax credit that only returns income taxes — ignoring those who are too poor to pay income tax but do pay significant shares of their income in sales and excise taxes.

In future tax years, a balance in the Taxpayers Trust Fund in excess of $30 million will trigger the availability of tax credits in the next year. The money in this fund comes from the previous years’ surpluses that otherwise would have been available to support general fund services or, potentially, to build up a stronger rainy day fund.

All of these multiyear commitments will continue to deplete any future surpluses and create problems in future years to sustain essential services. Even if the state maintains strong revenues and modest spending growth, vital programs and services will likely continue to be underfunded.

Iowa Workforce Development has already closed 36 out of 55 field offices and only has enough money for one full-time wage theft investigator; wage theft costs the state hundreds of millions of dollars a year in lost wages and tax revenue. The Iowa State Patrol is at its lowest staffing level in 40 years. Over the last decade funding per student at the community colleges is down 12 percent and 25 percent for the Regents. Over an extended period, K-12 schools have had their per-pupil spending held below actual cost increases, which over time compounds the underfunding of public education.

Iowa lawmakers must recognize the long-term impact of tax cuts on spending choices. Past choices will force future legislatures to lower investments on critical services on which economic growth depends.

The Iowa Fiscal Partnership is a joint public policy analysis initiative of two nonpartisan Iowa-based organizations, the Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City and the Child and Family Policy Center in Des Moines.

Mike Owen
Executive Director

*Hummus For Haiti – Still Time!
My wife (Melissa Fath) and I are going to Haiti in March with Community Health Initiative (CHI). CHI is a non-profit organization with the mission to provide basic health care to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Fundraising is an important part of the trip. In addition to paying for our flights, we must personally purchase all the medicine we take in. The cost of medicine alone will be well over $1000.

Our friend Ehab Sarsour has generously offered to help us with the fundraising for this trip. Ehab makes the most delicious, creamy hummus known to man using fresh lemons and imported chickpeas and olive oil and he is willing to make some for you if you make a donation to CHI. So make a donation in one of the two ways listed below by February 7th. Then e-mail me at and let me know that you have donated. We will then deliver the Hummus to your door sometime the weekend of February 15th. 

Donations can be made:

1. On the website using Paypal or a credit card at On the page there is a “add special instructions to the seller” box. Please indicate your preference that it goes to fund the trip of Rod or Melissa’s March trip.

2. Write a check made out to “Community Health Initiative, Haiti”. Please include a note with the check to indicate that it goes to fund the trip of Rod or Melissa’s March trip. Per IRS rules, please do not write our names anywhere on the check. Checks can be mailed to:
Community Health Initiative, Haiti, PO Box 5908, Coralville, Iowa 52241.

Thanks very much for your help!

*Local Food Summit
Growing the Local Food Movement in Johnson County: Share Your Vision February 08 at 10:00 AM at Montgomery Hall, Johnson County Fairgrounds.

Join the Johnson County Food Policy Council and special guests to learn about and discuss farm conservation, edible landscapes, local food impacts and policies to support farmers in Johnson County. In addition to presentations from local and regional local foods professionals, the forum will have plenty of opportunities for attendees to share their ideas.

Keynote speaker is Kyle Richmond, a member of the Dane County, Wisconsin, Board of Supervisors, who also is a member of both the Dane County Food Council and Madison Food Policy Council. Supervisor Richmond will share how those bodies have worked with farmers and the community to create positive changes within the county’s local foods movement.

Grant Schultz of VersaLand, a 145-acre learning farm near Morse, will talk about soil and water conservation. VersaLand develops code, systems, and machinery for sustainable farming systems, and shares its knowledge through public workshops.

Fred Meyer, founder and director of Backyard Abundance, will discuss edible landscapes. Backyard Abundance is a Johnson County environmental education nonprofit that helps build vibrant communities by creating beautiful, resilient landscapes that provide healthy food and habitat.

Anyone with an interest in Johnson County’s local foods movement should attend this forum, including farmers, restaurateurs, environmental groups, municipal officials, students and consumers.

The Johnson County Food Policy Council, created by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, is a volunteer citizen-led group with the purpose of improving dialogue and discussion and providing necessary advice on food and agriculture issues to the County, municipalities, community boards, local agencies, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and other interested groups.

*Free Tax Help
         For much more information, please visit the County web page:

*DID YOU KNOW?  Haiti is not only the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but it ranks last in most health related measurements. The average Haitian lives 20 years less than an average American.

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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