Common Good Iowa regularly releases reports, fact sheets and briefs on an array of policy priorities to advance opportunity for all Iowans. Browse them here.
Health and food security
March 8, 2022
SNAP plays a central role in fighting hunger. In fall 2021, 26% of Iowa households with children reported that the children sometimes or often were not eating enough because the household could not afford enough food. HF 2438 would impose new, burdensome eligibility verification requirements, including requiring custodial parents to cooperate with child support recovery.
March 8, 2022
By imposing new, burdensome eligibility verification requirements for safety-net programs, HF 2438 would set up nearly 8,000 Iowans, including children, to lose Medicaid and Hawki — insurance that helps them get the health care they need and helps Iowa further its goal of becoming the healthiest state in the nation. This bill will increase bureaucratic red tape and administrative costs and make it harder for Iowans to stay healthy and support their families.
February 10, 2022
SNAP, called Food Assistance in Iowa, helps people put food on the table and get back on their feet after tough times. SNAP provides nutrition assistance to eligible individuals and household based on their household size and income. HSB 698 would require custodial parents to cooperate with child support recovery. This provision would threaten child food security without increasing child support payments.
January 25, 2022
Iowa is among more than 40 states that uses a federal SNAP option called Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) to assure that low-income working families — who pay high shares of their incomes for basic needs like housing, child care and transportation — don’t go hungry. BBCE gives states some flexibility in how they structure their SNAP programs. HSB 508 would stop the state from using BBCE to waive asset tests for SNAP. That's a costly, counterproductive move that would set back families and increase hunger.
April 27, 2021
The Iowa House released its the Health and Human Services budget bill late last week, and it charts a far a better path for our state than the Senate HHS budget proposal released earlier in the month.
April 20, 2021
SNAP, called Food Assistance in Iowa, helps people get back on their feet after tough times. A section of the Health and Human Services budget bill — Division XIII of SSB 1267 — would make significant changes to SNAP eligibility and require DHS to implement a complex real-time eligibility verification system for Iowans enrolled in assistance programs. Maintaining program integrity is a shared goal: advocates want every dollar to go to families who need the help.
SF 389 would have the Iowa Department of Human Services implement a complex real-time eligibility verification system for Iowans enrolled in assistance programs, including SNAP. It would set up complicated hoops for families to jump through and cause eligible Iowans to lose their food assistance. It should not become law.
Maintaining program integrity is a shared goal — as advocates, we want every dollar to go to families who need the help. But SSB 1125 is not a common-sense approach. It’s a pointless, pricey scheme that will increase bureaucratic red tape and administrative costs and make it harder for Iowans to stay healthy, put food on the table and support their families.
Increasing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, during an economic downturn is the best, most direct way to ensure Iowans have the food they need and to stimulate local economies.
Given the current crises, Iowa needs Congress to act and provide additional, substantial relief to ensure Medicaid remains strong and can do its job in supporting Iowa families.
April 2020 | Natalie Veldhouse
Iowa should continue to leverage SNAP in its response to the COVID-19 crisis, using the many supports now available to the state, thanks to key changes at the federal level.
HF 2030 is not a common-sense approach. It’s a pointless, pricey scheme that will increase bureaucratic red tape and administrative costs and make it
harder for Iowans to stay healthy, put food on the table and support their families.
Health coverage before, during and after pregnancy increases access to preventive care, improves health outcomes for mothers and children, and reduces maternal mortality rates. By assuring continuity of care during an extremely vulnerable time, such a move will improve the health of new mothers – and set their children on a healthy trajectory.
Family financial stability
To fully engage in community life, people must be able to prove their identity. Localities across the U.S. have launched community ID programs to expand opportunity for people facing barriers getting a state ID or driver’s license. In Iowa, Johnson County has administered a community ID program since 2015. Community IDs represent a low-cost, high-reward strategy to help connect people who are often most marginalized from broader prosperity in their community, including refugees, seniors, people fleeing domestic violence or experiencing homelessness and undocumented immigrants. It's time for Polk County to establish a community ID program.
August 16, 2021
By now many Iowans know that the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress earlier this year included an important expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC). In fact, if you have children under age 18 living in your home, you have probably already received at least one monthly payment in your bank account. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about how the CTC works for most families
April 16, 2021
By now, many of us have seen the first of many benefits of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) — funds deposited in our bank accounts. The COVID-19 recovery bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden March 12 authorized the payment of $1,400 per person for every adult and child in a household with income below the threshold: $75,000 for single adults, or $150,000 for a couple.
April 16, 2021
Iowans already are seeing the first of many benefits of the latest COVID-19 relief bill — funds deposited in our bank accounts. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) authorized the payment of $1,400 per person for every adult and child in a household with income below the threshold: $75,000 for single adults, or $150,000 for a couple.
Current public investments in child care still leave a huge gap between what parents can afford and the actual cost of quality care. Only 12 percent of Iowa children aged 0-5 in families with low incomes have access to quality care, according to Child Care Aware of America. Getting more children into CCA is the first, best way to help families afford child care.
Even during better times, many working families with young children were pushed to the brink to afford quality, reliable child care, and many providers struggled to make ends meet. In tough times like these, the system is simply overwhelmed.
The Child and Family Policy Center and Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children surveyed Iowa child-care owners, directors and home providers on the financial consequences of participating in the Child Care Assistance program. The responses were stark.
January 2020 | Peter Fisher and Natalie Veldhouse
Half the jobs in Iowa pay less than what single-parent families need to meet a basic needs budget, and even childless couples and single individuals, as well as married couples with children, need well above the minimum wage. In the second installment of this year's The Cost of Living in Iowa, we focus on a set of “work support” policies that help low-wage working families survive and keep their children out of poverty, and that provide a stepping stone to a better education and a better job.
September 2019 | Peter S. Fisher and Natalie Veldhouse
This seventh edition of The Cost of Living in Iowa includes basic family budgets for 10 family types and the living wage for each family type: the hourly wage that would provide after-tax income sufficient to meet basic needs for a full-time worker.
October 2019 | Colin Gordon
A half-century removed from the high-tide of the civil rights movement, progress on racial equity has slowed or stalled on many fronts. Nowhere is this more starkly evident than in the twelve states of the Midwest region, where racial disparities in economic opportunity and economic outcomes are wider than they are in other regions, and policy interventions designed to close those gaps are meager
State budget and taxes
April 6, 2022
SJR 2006 would place on the statewide ballot a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would essentially lock in devastating income tax changes long after their proponents have left office. The proposal would allow a mere one-third minority in either the House or Senate to block any increase in income or corporate income tax rates.
by Peter Fisher | February 16, 2022
People do not move from state to state over tax policy, research has consistently shown. This is true for the elderly or for people of all ages. While those pushing a tax-cut agenda use the contrary argument to make their case, it is good to take a step back and look at the research.
Our state’s tax system — like those of most other states — favors white Iowans over Iowans of color, especially Black Iowans. That’s because the tax code advantages those at the top of the income distribution, who are disproportionately white, as it disadvantages those at the bottom, who are disproportionately families of color. Current tax proposals would exacerbate disadvantages facing families of color.
by Peter Fischer | January 18, 2022
Iowa’s tax system is upside down: Those with the lowest income pay a higher percentage of their income in state and local taxes than those at the top. Along comes the governor with a “flat tax” proposal that she has defined as “fair.” In fact, it would make things worse with a tax system that is heavily weighted in favor of those who have the highest incomes. It would make the Iowa system even less flat, more skewed in favor of the rich.
January 7, 2022
Within months of passing tax cuts that when fully phased in will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, lawmakers are proposing a new round of income tax cuts, up to the full elimination of the state income tax. Eliminating or significantly cutting the state income tax is irresponsible. Here's why.
The American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Biden earlier this month is a historic opportunity for Iowa to invest in a just economic recovery from COVID-19. It holds the promise of leaving our communities better off than they were before.
But Iowa lawmakers are putting a significant share of Iowa’s allotment of state aid at risk with a series of tax bills that would reduce the revenue for public services like education and public health — and run afoul of guardrails that ensure states invest the federal dollars in the families, businesses, and communities most harmed by COVID-19.
April 27, 2021
The Iowa House released its the Health and Human Services budget bill late last week, and it charts a far a better path for our state than the Senate HHS budget proposal released earlier in the month.
April 29, 2021
While hundreds of thousands of Iowans probably have spent some of their $1,400 stimulus checks by now, the state of Iowa is still waiting for a much bigger check. The state will soon receive about $700 million in federal relief funds under the American Rescue Plan Act, the first half of the $1.38 billion expected in total. While state legislators debate budget decisions — $1 million more for this program, $12 million less for that one — it is amazing there has been little discussion about how that $700 million should be used.
April 15, 2021
As the Legislature continues to debate tax changes, little attention has been paid to a new property tax credit provided in the so-called “tax omnibus bill,” Senate File 587, which recently passed the Iowa Senate. This new credit for lower income elderly homeowners has significant problems. Iowa already has an Elderly and Disabled Property Tax Credit that has been functioning well for decades. It applies both to homeowners and to renters; for renters, 23 percent of rent is assumed to go for property taxes. The credit is equal to a portion of the first $1,000 in property taxes paid, starting at 100 percent and declining to 25 percent as income increases. The credit phases out at about $24,000 income. Both portions of the credit are entirely funded by the state.
April 13, 2021
Legislation is advancing in both houses of the Legislature that — already costly, as well as shaky on principles of sound tax policy — could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in federal pandemic relief and recovery funding.
April 6, 2021
While many tax proposals still alive in the 2021 legislative session are costly, Senate File 587 compounds those problems with funding promises that the bill itself shows may not last. At stake are not only revenues for state and local services, but a big share of aid from the federal COVID-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act.
March 9, 2021 | Mike Owen
Senate Study Bill 1250 combines two concepts that are terribly costly at a time Iowa cannot afford them. The two principal features, together, come at a cost over a quarter-billion dollars in FY 2024.
File 576 was already a terribly costly tax bill that Iowa cannot afford. Now, it appears to be twice as costly as assumed — jeopardizing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds otherwise allocated to Iowa from the federal COVID relief package, the American Rescue Plan.
Iowa already has generous exemptions on inheritance tax. Lawmakers should not rush into a repeal that would cut $89 million from services for all Iowans in its first year.
Congress is right now negotiating what leaders say will be the last coronavirus relief bill before the end of the year. Members should act now to pass a robust and comprehensive relief package to address the unprecedented crisis we’re facing.
By Peter Fisher, Research Director, Common Good Iowa | Feb. 1, 2022
Kansas took the leap that Iowa legislators are considering now, to drastically cut taxes -- even eliminate the income tax. It was a dramatic failure, and Iowa could expect the same. Massive income tax cuts would cause serious harm, to public schools and other important services.
May 2020 | Peter Fisher
Reserves, existing federal aid will not cover projected revenue shortfalls
February 2020 | Peter Fisher and David Osterberg
Voters would get much less of what they wanted — and extras they did not seek.
Report | Tax Increment Financing in Polk County
There are wide variations in the use of tax-increment financing around the state. Some cities have used the tool judiciously — others, not so much, diverting revenues from other jurisdictions long after a designated project is complete. This divergence of practice is illustrated well in Polk County.
Common Good Iowa statement from Deputy Director Mike Owen on Governor Kim Reynolds' Condition of the State address and proposals for taxes, education and workforce issues.
Already in 2022, Iowa legislators and Governor Kim Reynolds have set Iowa on a path that assures severe cuts in education and other critical public services supported by state revenues while increasing disparities in our tax code in favor of the wealthiest Iowans. Now, a new proposal effectively would lock those changes in place with a constitutional amendment that would require a supermajority — not just a majority vote — in both houses to pass tax increases.
Senate Study Bill 3064 would require a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to pass any bill that increases rates on the individual income tax, corporate income tax, and the sales and use tax. But tax cuts, like the massive tax cuts this year that will strip nearly $1.9 billion in General Fund revenues in Fiscal Year 2028, would continue to need only a simple majority for passage.
Iowans defeated a similar referendum in 1999, by a vote of 52% to 48%. Ironically, only a 34% minority would be enough in one house of the Legislature to block any increase in taxes that a simple majority of legislators — all elected with a simple majority or even a plurality of voting constituents — believe are necessary to maintain services that their constituents demand and expect. In fact, legislators could not have passed the tax cuts they did this year with such a two-thirds supermajority requirement.
The proposal enshrines minority rule on tax and budget policy, enabling that minority to act against the wishes of the voters they represent. It is a betrayal of fundamental democratic principles on which representative government is founded. A “no” vote would be worth two “yes” votes.
After keeping most Iowans in the dark while developing 2022 tax cuts that will devastate public services, legislators would block a majority from correcting course. Kansas enacted similar income tax cuts that turned out to be such a disaster that they were largely reversed three years later. This proposal would prevent a future legislature from correcting what will turn out to be Iowa’s mistake.
Legislators elected 30 years after passage could be bound to the views of legislators since defeated, retired, or even deceased. Even if this bill could get two-thirds approval — which it cannot, and does not need — it is a terrible idea. The amendment does not trust Iowa voters or the people they elect.
Bill History for HF 2317, which passed the Senate 32-16 (two short of a two-thirds majority of 50 elected senators), and the House 61-34 (six short of a two-thirds majority of 100 elected representatives). https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=89&ba=HF 2317
February 28, 2022
Commonly referred to as a transgender athlete ban, Senate File 2342 would keep transgender girls and women from participating in most publicly accessible sports teams in Iowa, from elementary school through college. The bill puts girls’ sports in jeopardy and represents a major liability to the state of Iowa that could cost millions of dollars over several years.
February 2, 2021
Iowa’s system of free universal public education does more than prepare students for the future. It also brings communities together. One tool to assure this is the authority of locally elected school boards to implement Voluntary Diversity Plans, which permit a school district to deny open-enrollment exits that would jeopardize the ability of the public school to provide quality learning opportunities for all its students. Gutting local Diversity Plans is a serious blow to the goal of assuring quality educational opportunity to every child.
By taking money from public schools to pay tuition at private schools and loosening open enrollment rules, Governor Reynolds’ proposal, SF 159, would deprive neighborhood public schools, and the communities that depend on them, of resources students need to learn and succeed.
Air, water and climate
April 15, 2021
Iowa passed our bottle and can redemption law in 1978. Since then we pay 5 cents each time we buy a can of beer or bottle of Coke and get the nickel back when we return the container to the place we bought it. States surrounding Iowa take no such action to reduce roadside litter and boost recycling efforts. Out here on the edge of the prairie one can feel our policy is out of step — which means Iowa actually is ahead of the game. In 2010, 38 countries in the world and 10 U.S. states and Guam had bottle and can redemption laws. The same number of programs remain in the United States but now 58 countries have bottle bills.
February 2021 | David Osterberg
In 2012, Iowa established its own investment tax credit for solar energy for residences and businesses. Because of its success, the law needs a few changes. The strong demand for local solar power has led to a backlog, with homeowners and businesses waiting longer for what they were promised. HF 221 would meet the promise of a successful program.
December 2020 | David Osterberg
Closing a nuclear reactor that produces electricity without adding to the grave problem of global warming is a problem for environmental activists who have not always embraced nuclear energy.
January 2018 | David Osterberg and James Merchant
Iowa should consider major policy changes including a moratorium on new concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that pose growing environmental and health challenges. This report also recommends revising the failing Master Matrix used in siting of these operations.
March 2017 | David Osterberg and James Merchant
Restrictions on nuisance lawsuits are the latest tool against local demands for stronger regulation of the livestock industry. The public health consequences of these legislative choices are significant, giving those most affected no place to turn for redress if state policy is inadequate to protect them.
Jobs and labor
February 22, 2022
Unemployment is a matter of public interest — it affects the well-being of our neighbors and our economy, and it can happen to anyone unexpectedly. Iowa Code calls it a “serious menace” that “so often falls with crushing force upon the unemployed worker and the worker’s family.” Bills in the Legislature would strike this language, walking back the commitment of Iowa’s unemployment insurance to protect against “this greatest hazard of our economic life.”
Moving to $15 an hour by 2025, through either a state or federal boost in the minimum wage, would boost the earnings of 463,000 Iowa workers — about 30 percent of the state’s work force — and their families.
September 2020 | Colin Gordon
The pace and scale of job losses fell heavily on low-wage workers, and the risk of staying on the job fell disproportionately on women and workers of color.
September 2020 | Peter Fisher
New independent businesses are the major source of net job growth. This reality calls for a shift in policy away from incentives to attract branch plants and out-of-state businesses, towards investments in education, research, work supports, entrepreneurial education, and quality of life.
Common Good Iowa's legislative priorities for 2022 reflect a wide range of concerns that lawmakers should address to make Iowa a welcoming, inclusive state that not only protects but promotes opportunity for every Iowan.
The goal: Every Iowa family can access material and financial supports in times of crisis to avoid hardships and stabilize their households.
Reject bureaucratic barriers like repeated eligibility verification checks that take food, health care and basic support from Iowans. Such strategies do not promote work but set up administrative hurdles that make it harder for Iowans to stay healthy, put food on the table and support their families.
Simplify application and re-enrollment processes so eligible families can receive assistance without barriers. The state should extend flexibilities in application processes made available during COVID-19 and make information more accessible to families without computer access and those whose primary language is not English.
Iowa should expand Express Lane Eligibility (ELE), a simplified process that allows states to determine eligibility for multiple programs through a single application. Iowa should expand its ELE, which now includes Medicaid, CHIP and SNAP, to include WIC and TANF.
Increase investments in the Double Up Food Bucks program, which doubles the value of SNAP dollars spent on fresh fruits and vegetables at participating Iowa grocers and farmers markets.
Racial equity in policymaking and service provision
Convene a cross-agency workgroup to establish race and ethnicity data collection standards and strategies for state-administered contracts with the goal of improving the completeness and accuracy of enrollment data by race, ethnicity and language. The state should facilitate best practices for maximizing member self-identification.
The goal: Every Iowan can get the health services they need to get and stay healthy.
Extend Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women from 60-days postpartum to 12-months postpartum. By assuring continuity of care during an extremely vulnerable time, such a move will improve the health of new mothers – and set their children on a healthy trajectory.
Iowa should use the Low-Income Pregnant Women option to cover pregnant women through CHIP instead of Medicaid. This option would allow Iowa to save money — and keep the same level of care.
Include doulas as a covered service in Medicaid. Doulas are trained professionals who support mothers before, during and after giving birth.Including doula services as a standard benefit in Iowa’s Medicaid programs can help improve maternal health outcomes and enhance equity.
Conduct an audit of each of the state’s 14 mental health regions to document how much money each region spends on children (by age group) and by service type (health promotion, prevention and well-being; targeted interventions and supports; complex needs) to assure the mental health needs of children are being adequately met by current program structures and funding.
The goal: Every working family can find and afford quality child care they need to get ahead.
Support key recommendations in Gov. Reynolds’ Child Care Task Force report that emphasize quality and best practice.
Increase the Child Care Assistance (CCA) entry family income eligibility level to 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
Promote children’s health, safety and the overall quality of child care by requiring safe staff-to-student ratios, assuring that teen workers are properly supervised.
Increase provider pay to rates that reflect the actual costs of quality care so families have more choice of providers and providers themselves earn a living wage.
Raise CCA provider reimbursement to the federal standard, 75th percentile of current market rate.
Maintain statewide investments in WAGE$, a salary supplement for the early care and education workforce, based on the individual's level of formal education and commitment to their program.
Invest in T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education and Compensation Helps), a scholarship program that provides the early childhood workforce access to educational opportunities and helps establish a qualified, fairly compensated, stable workforce.
Wages and workplace protection
The goal: Every Iowan has an opportunity to thrive in the state’s economy.
Expand enforcement capacity in the Department of Labor to increase worker safety and expand enforcement and crack down on wage theft, an estimated $600 million problem in Iowa, driven by misclassification of workers, forced and unpaid overtime, and other illegal practices.
Increase the minimum wage to $15. Iowa’s minimum wage has been held at $7.25 since January 2008. An increase to even $12 has been estimated to benefit more than 400,000 Iowa workers, plus their family members, in turn benefitting local economies.
The goal: Every Iowa student has access to strong public schools that set them up for success in work and life.
Increase the cost per pupil in the state school funding formula (Supplemental State Aid, or SSA) by at least 4 percent.
Reject schemes that further divert state or local funds from local school districts to private schools, including school vouchers or so-called education savings accounts.
Connect more children, particularly those in groups that are currently underserved, including children of color and low-income children, to high-quality preschool experiences through the state’s Statewide Voluntary Four-Year-Old Preschool and Shared Visions programs.
Increase funding for community colleges and Regents universities to buck the long-term trend of students and their families paying more in tuition and fees and taking on more debt or simply deciding college is out of reach.
Tie funding increases for Early Childhood Iowa to the level of increase for SSA for PK-12 to assure funding keeps pace with costs.
Support prevention and intervention services through the federal Family First Act.
Tax and budget
The goal: a fair, sustainable tax system that raises adequate revenue to create the freedom people need to thrive. Iowa lawmakers in the last 25 years have deliberately and steadily reduced revenues needed to maintain, much less enhance, public services. Along with income-tax cuts that have produced a less equitable system, lawmakers have diverted tax revenue to private interests through tax credits.
Make no new general cuts in income taxes for individuals or businesses. Instead, structure any income-tax changes in ways that target benefits to lower- and moderate-income Iowans, such as expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Require tax-credit reform as a condition for any further revenue reductions, focusing on tax credits that were subject to an in-depth evaluation by the tax expenditure review committee in December 2021: Research Activities Credit, High Quality Jobs Credit, and New Jobs Tax Credit. Any tax cuts should be paid for with increases in other taxes that not only assure at least revenue neutrality, but greater equity.
If a sales tax increase is implemented to fill the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, combine it with other tax changes that offset the regressive impact of the sales-tax increase. For example, if the sales tax is increased by more than the three-eighths-cent designated for the environmental trust fund, use the expanded revenue to pay for an increase in the state Earned Income Tax Credit.
Extend the sales tax to ag fertilizer, so that farms pay sales tax on fertilizer just as homeowners do for lawn care, and provide a funding source to address water pollution caused by agriculture.
In the absence of the three-eighths-cent sales tax increase sought by advocates to fill the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, implement other tax changes to meet environmental quality and outdoor recreation needs, such as tax-credit reform or expanding the sales tax to ag fertilizer.
Reform the state's tax-increment financing laws to assure a public benefit and greater accountability, and prevent unnecessary diversions of local tax revenue from their principal purposes.
Public policy is where our state’s values live and breathe. Common Good Iowa informs smart policymaking to turn Iowa values — pragmatism, fairness, empathy and accountability — into concrete solutions that advance opportunity for all Iowans.