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Worthan: zero growth for schools is 'most responsible action' state can take

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rep. Gary Worthan (R-Storm Lake) is among Republicans defending their vote to "shield local property taxpayers from an increase in property taxes resulting from a $216 million increase in education funding."

On Tuesday, the Iowa House approved a zero allowable growth rate for schools for Fiscal Year 2012. Allowable growth is the percentage at which the state's per-pupil funding for education is allowed to increase.

Due to underfunding from previous legislatures, a zero percent growth rate still increases state funding for education somewhat, Worthan says. With a zero rate, he projects that schools would still see $216 million in new money.

Republicans claimed they can also prevent local property tax hikes as a result of declining enrollments, by also approving a bill which has the state assume the responsibility.

In previous years, property taxpayers were forced to pick up the cost of increased funding. Many Iowans are seeing the result in their property tax bills. Worthan said Iowa must fully fund the state's share of allowable growth to stop saddling property taxpayers with a growing burden.

"Iowans expect the Legislature to make education a priority. They also expect a budget that does not spend more than the state takes in. I believe we can do both," said Worthan.

Despite an outcry over a lack of allowable growth for schools that are already reeling from a 10 percent cut under ex-Gov. Culver, this is a time when most other areas of state government are seeing cuts, Worthan says. "A zero percent growth rate for schools is the most responsible action the Legislature can take with the state facing a $700 million budget gap," he says.

The issue now goes to the Democrat-controlled Senate for consideration.

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