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Leaders warned about anti-business measures

April 5, 2009


Chamber and business leaders at the Iowa Statehouse warned those in attendance at the Des Moines Summit Thursday there are a lot of anti-business measures being passed around.

"There are a number of anti-business bills in the Legislature and most of them have been very quiet," said Nicole Molt, a lobbyist for the Association of Business and Industry.

Article Photos

Dave Roederer, at right, director of the Iowa Chamber Alliance, speaks to members of the Marshalltown delegation as Mayor Gene Beach listens in. Roederer said there were a number of pieces of legislation that concerned business and industry.

In addition to the prevailing wage bill, which did not receive enough votes to pass but may be brought back up at any time, Molt noted there are others out there as well. These have included high profile issues such as fair share, worker's compensation reform and changes to collective bargaining.

Molt noted just as Iowa seems to be moving away from Right-to-Work legislation, other states, traditional union states, are looking to move to that concept. This includes Michigan, the heart of union country.

"They see that as a huge economic development tool," she said.

Fact Box

The Des Moines Summit: A Review

Issue 1: Income tax reform

Summary: The Marshalltown delegation heard the arguments for and against eliminating federal deductibility from state income tax returns. Democrats touted it as a middle class tax cut. Republicans warned it was a cleverly disguised attempt to raise taxes on everyone in the long run.

Status: Debate and a vote could take place this week.

Issue 2: Labor issues

Summary: The delegation was updated on the status of important legislative pieces such as employee choice of doctor and prevailing wage. Most members of the delegation, which was sponsored by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce, seemed to be against changing the current law.

Status: There are still amendments being fashioned that could dramatically change the look of these bills, Democrats assured.

Issue 3: Power Plant

Summary: Several in the delegation expressed dissatisfaction with the perceived lack of leadership on the power plant issue. Alliant Energy decided not to build a coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown citing, in part, a lack of support from the state.

Status: Every legislator who mentioned it, Republican and Democrat, said they supported the plant. However, support, in hindsight, is no longer enough to save the doomed project.

Issue 4: Iowa Veterans Home

Summary: The delegation was told capital improvements for IVH have already been budgeted and approved. Sen. Jack Kibbe, D-Emmetsburg, also expressed disappointment that Commandant Dan Steen would not be reappointed.

Status: Plans on a $100 million renovation and building project will proceed forward.

- Ken Black

David Roederer, director of the Iowa Chamber Alliance, said these measures and others send a strong message to those companies watching the state and deciding where to locate. Tax issues and budget concerns at the state level also play a role, he added.

Further, he said tax policies can work to drive people from the state.

"The good news is that there are fewer people moving out of the state than before," he said. "The bad news is that, in a recent study, 700 people who moved out had an average income of $300,000. So we sit at these committees and subcommittees and say, 'Folks, what are you doing?'"

Roederer said those people are especially tough to lose simply because they give so much back to the community in terms of charitable contributions.

Roederer also had a warning about the state budget and the overspending he believes is currently taking place.

"It's frustrating, but more than that, it's frightening," he said. "If you think you just have a temporary problem you are on one track. We have a structural deficit.

Roederer, who was also on Gov. Terry Branstad's staff, said there are some things that were done in the 1980s that may have hurt the state. He acknowledged Iowa had pursued some relatively low-wage jobs - a consistent argument made by Sen. Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs.

However, Roederer said the farm crisis made those exceptional times.

"In those days, we thought a low-paying job was better than a no-paying job," he said. "As time has gone on, those things have been improved to encourage more high-paying jobs."


Contact Ken Black at 641-753-6611 or



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