2007 a good year for families
This year was a good one to stand up for Iowa families
The holiday greetings arriving at our home remind me of what we accomplished in the Legislature to make this year a whole lot better for thousands of Iowans. I’m proud that, while sticking to responsible, prudent budget-making, we stood up for middle-class families.
There were a lot of highlights to the 2007 session, but increasing the minimum wage for the first time in almost 10 years certainly tops the list. On New Year’s Day, Iowa’s minimum wage will move up to $7.25 an hour. Raising a family on a minimum wage job will still be a challenge, but 135,000 Iowans can tell you it will be a lot easier than struggling to get by on $5.15 an hour–that was Iowa’s minimum wage at the beginning of 2007.
There are also more opportunities now for investors to create good-paying jobs in Iowa, thanks to the newly created Iowa Power Fund. The Power Fund will invest $100 million over four years to stoke the alternative energy boom. Innovative energy technologies are perking up the economies of communities all over Iowa, and our state is becoming a world leader in biofuels, wind energy and energy efficiency.
By next July, 10,750 more Iowa kids will be able see a family doctor when they are sick, due to our expansion of Medicaid and hawk-i. The health of kids will also benefit from our decision to adopt the single most effective way to discourage young people from smoking: increasing the cigarette tax. Every dollar raised by that new tax is being used to make health care more affordable and accessible for all Iowans.
Education also had a good year here in Iowa. To attract and keep the best teachers in our classrooms, we continued our push to raise the average teacher salary from 40th in the nation to 25th. A new pre-school initiative is using partnerships and other innovative approaches to make quality pre-school available to every Iowa family. And, as a result of a boost in state aid, the latest tuition increases at our public universities are the lowest since the early 1980s. Some Iowa community colleges avoided increasing tuition all together.
These successes were achieved through a bipartisan, fiscally responsible effort. Our rainy day funds are full at almost $600 million, the highest amount ever in our state’s savings accounts. The 2007 state budget left Iowa in better financial condition than the year before, and we’ve pledged to repeat that accomplishment.
Looking ahead to 2008, I wish the best for you and yours. Please keep in touch when the legislative session begins in January. Your ideas, comments and suggestions are sincerely appreciated.
Iowa’s Office of Energy Independence up and running
A centerpiece of the Legislature’s bipartisan efforts during the 2007 session was ensuring that Iowa remains a leader in the alternative and renewable energy economy.
Our newly created Office of Energy Independence recently released its recommendations for how Iowa can become energy independent by 2025. The plan includes cost-effective suggestions for improving the state's energy efficiency while reducing our dependence on foreign fuel, use of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Office of Energy Independence is administering the $100 million Iowa Power Fund and will soon be accepting applications for those dollars. The purpose of the Power Fund is to encourage research and investment in alternative, Iowa-grown energy and technologies that will keep our economy moving forward and bring more high-skill, high-wage jobs to our state.
To review the application process for the Iowa Power Fund and learn more about the state’s energy independence plan, go to “http://www.energy.iowa.gov.”>www.energy.iowa.gov.
DNR announces science contest for Iowa students
In 2007 the Legislature passed an initiative to keep track of greenhouse gases in Iowa and to pursue ways to reduce our state’s contribution to global warming.
The Air Quality Division at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is inviting middle and high school science students to participate in this solution-driven effort. A science contest titled “What Would You Do?” asks students to present their ideas for curbing greenhouse emissions that contribute to climate change.
The contest is open to public, private and home-schooled students in 6th through 12th grade. The entry deadline is Feb. 11. For complete contest details, go to the Iowa DNR website at www.iowadnr.gov/air/citizen/climate/ and click on “Climate Change Student Contest” or contact Mindy Kralicek at (515) 281-7832.