Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds highlighted the Council Bluffs Community School District TradeWorks Academy in her annual Condition of the State address to Iowa lawmakers Tuesday morning in Des Moines.

Discussing education and the state’s skilled workforce shortage, Reynolds said, “One of the best ways for students to learn is through hands-on experience.”

“Momentum in work-based learning is building across the state, and Council Bluffs is a great example,” she said, mentioning the TradeWorks Academy, a joint venture of the school district, Iowa Western Community College and area businesses.

The academy offers instruction and hands-on activities in construction, plumbing and HVAC/refrigeration, electrical systems, fabrication and welding and automotive, diesel and small engine technology at Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln High Schools. The program allows high school students to learn about skilled trades as freshmen and sophomores and pursue college-level credentials at Iowa Western Community College as juniors and seniors.

“It’s a win-win for the students and the community,” Reynolds said. “The students learn skills that lead to lifelong careers and the local businesses get the workforce that they so desperately need.”

A contingency of Council Bluffs students were in the Iowa Legislature chambers for the address and were recognized by Reynolds during her speech.

It was exciting to hear her mention the program, Superintendent Vickie Murillo said.

“We were very honored t have the governor mention our TradeWorks Academy today and acknowledge the work and the partnership we have here in Council Bluffs with the community and Iowa Western (Community College),” she said. “What we’re doing in Council Bluffs with our TradeWorks Academy and some of our other Plus One Pathways, we’re aligned with the idea and the vision she has for Future Ready Iowa.”

Reynolds even highlighted Thomas Jefferson High School junior Emma Myers, who is training as a welder at TradeWorks so she can follow in the footsteps of her father, who’s been a welder for 40 years. Emma was at the Capitol for the address, too, along with her parents and about a dozen other TradeWorks students from Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln High Schools.

The governor visited Thomas Jefferson in January 2019, when the TradeWorks area was still under construction.

In her speech, Reynolds also asked lawmakers to consider increasing the state sales taxes by 1 cent to raise money to boost funding for water quality, the environment and mental health care programs.

A 1-cent sales tax increase is expected to generate about $540 million in new revenue a year starting in 2021.

Some of the funding will go into a water quality and environmental programs voters passed 10 years ago in a constitutional amendment but the legislature never funded.

Reynolds is proposing using $100 million a year for water quality and $52 million a year for conservation and outdoor recreation programs from the sales tax.

Some of the state previous funding for such programs will move into the new fund, however, raising concerns about whether it’s a net gain for water quality and the environment.

Reynolds said the increase in water quality funding is about 31% and for conservation about a 14% increase.

To offset the tax increase she proposed an income tax cut by an average additional 10 percent beyond the rates set in the 2018 tax cut for next year.

Reynolds said the top income tax bracket in Iowa a year ago was nearly 9% and with a new round of cuts she proposes it would be 5.5% by 2023.

She also proposes a property tax cut of $77 million by reducing mental health care funding raised through the property tax levy and budgeting $80 million from the state general fund to pay the cost. That means the state would pay about 70 percent of mental health care costs and counties 30 percent. Counties now pay all the costs through property taxes.

Democratic legislative leaders expressed concern that funding mental health programs with a sales tax may not guarantee funding in the future.

“I think Iowans need assurances beyond just what she’ll do. Who knows how long she’s going to be our governor, but we need to make sure that there’s stable funding in place,” said Senate Democratic leader Janet Petersen.

Republican leaders said tax changes must reduce the tax burden and Reynolds plan appears to do that, but they wouldn’t commit until seeing details.

“I think that’s in line with what most of us want and whether we can get everything together and get something passed through both chambers and on the governor’s desk still remains to be seen,” said Senate President Charles Schneider.

House Democratic leader Todd Prichard said his biggest concern is with tax cuts whether the state can meet obligations to pay for priorities.

“We have to fund education. We have to fund our health care system. We have to do those things that Iowans expect of us from the state. How she’s going to make that happen I don’t know. Again, it comes to a question: is that a burden shift? Is that a burden shift to the sales tax which is a regressive tax?

Liberal action group Progress Iowa said the tax shift isn’t a positive move for Iowans.

“Governor Reynolds continues to push snake oil solutions at the expense of Iowa families. Today she promoted an income tax cut that would be paid for in large part by raising the sales tax, which hits hardest on working families,”said Matt Sinovic, the group’s executive director.

Other budget areas for which Reynolds seeks additional funding:

  • Schools: $103 million in new funding for local school districts, an increase of about 2.5%.
  • Broadband in rural areas: An additional $15 million and adjustment to the state match so Iowa can continue to leverage private and federal funding to build out broadband.
  • Childcare: Expand Early Childhood tax credits. Currently, they are available to families making $45,000 or less. Reynolds recommends that be doubled to $90,000.

Reynolds also recommended policy changes to lawmakers including a renewed request to pass a constitution amendment that no longer bars felons from voting after they’ve served their sentence and an amendment that says the Iowa Constitution does not create a right to an abortion.

— Nonpareil News Editor Mike Brownlee contributed to this report. Pitt with The Associated Press contributed from Des Moines.

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