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New year to focus on job creation, fiscal responsibility

We capped off 2014 with promising news on the economy. That means we can continue to make both fiscal responsibility and job creation top priorities in 2015.

The latest review of state finances by the nonpartisan Revenue Estimating Conference points to steady economic growth for Iowa over the next couple of years. In addition, Forbes recently ranked Iowa 12th on its list of 2014 Best States for Business. Iowa’s strengths include relatively low unemployment and a diverse economy in farming, manufacturing, financial services and biotechnology.

These indicators tell us that Iowa has rebounded from the national recession better than most states. Yet many working families are still struggling. A new report from Pew Research Center finds that the gap between the wealthy and everyone else is the biggest it’s been in three decades. In addition, a survey of Mid-America Business Conditions shows that a shortage of skilled and qualified workers is limiting business growth in Iowa.

When the 2015 session begins on Jan.12, we will tackle these concerns with bipartisan efforts to boost the economy and expand Iowa’s middle class. Our top priorities include:

Making sure kids get the best possible education in our local schools with reliable funding, top-notch teachers and good preschool programs that provide a successful start.

Freezing tuition at our public universities for the third straight year. The Board of Regents recently voted unanimously to work with us once again to make a tuition freeze a reality for resident undergraduate students in 2015-16.

Investing in worker training at our community colleges, which have a solid reputation for collaborating with local businesses to ensure Iowans get the skills they need to fill job openings.

As we have shown in recent years, we can accomplish these goals and balance the state budget without raising taxes. If you have ideas that can help, please contact me. The 2015 session is just a week away and I want to know what you think.

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State Sen. Steve Sodders represents Marshall and Tama counties, as well as La Porte City and southern parts of Black Hawk County. To contact him during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise he can be reached at home at 641-483-2383. E-mail him at steve.sodders@legis.iowa.gov