As 2017 comes to an end, we have much to be thankful for. Numerous reports from objective sources report Iowa first or near first in the nation in a number of important areas. Hard working Iowans, fiscal discipline and responsible leadership have combined to make Iowa one of the best places in America to live and raise a family. Consider these reports, all released within the last 30 days:
- High School Graduation Rates: Iowa leads the nation in percentage of high school graduates at 91.3%, according to the National Center For Education Studies, as reported by Radio Iowa on December 5th. While many challenges remain in education, apples for apples Iowa is setting the standard.
- Emphasis on Education: Iowa has bucked the trend nationally, and adjusted for inflation, has increased K-12 education funding by 20.6% since 2008. Only three states had greater increases in education funding during this period, according to the Center On Budget & Policy Priorities. Government spending more money is not a cause for celebration, but this statistic reflects Iowa’s commitment to K-12 Education and the emphasis on equipping our students with the tools they need to be successful in the dynamic economy of the future, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM). This report also shows the inaccuracy of claims that K-12 Education has not been a priority in Iowa. It has, in fact, been our highest priority.
- Economy: Iowa unemployment is at its lowest rate in 17 years, at 3.7%, as reported by Iowa Workforce Development. Many businesses report plans to expand in the near future.
- Affordability: Go Banking Rates just released a report on the 12 most affordable states in America for the middle class to live. Iowa was #1, the most affordable state in the nation. The report looked at three factors in making the determination: income trends, including the change in median household income of middle class families between 1999 and 2014; higher education trends, including tuition costs and graduation rates; and housing trends, including mortgage and homeownership rates. Once again, Iowa leads the nation.
- Leadership & Fiscal Responsibility: According to an analysis by 24/7 Wall Street, Iowa is the 3rd best managed state in the nation, up three spots from #6 last year. In awarding Iowa this ranking, the report stated: “Iowa is also one of the most fiscally responsible states in the country. While across all states, average state government debt amounts to 52.2% of total state tax revenue, Iowa’s debt load amounts to just 26.1% — one of the smallest shares in the country.” Insistence on fiscal discipline in Iowa government is reflected in House Republican budget principles: We will not spend more than the state collects; we will not use one time money for ongoing expenses; we will not purposefully underfund programs to make the budget appear balanced; and we will return unused money to the taxpayers.
While Iowans have much to be grateful for as 2017 comes to an end, we also have many challenges and opportunities in 2018, and in my next newsletter I will discuss what I believe will be the big issues and priorities in the legislative session that begins January 8th.