Independent Analysis and Information on Iowa Tax and Budget Issues

Iowans' Debate Prep Notebook

Solid Background for All Those Political Discussions
Updated Oct. 27, 2010

As he was about to leave as director of the Department of Natural Resources, Rich Leopold told The Des Moines Register about the difficulties of running a chronically underfunded agency — record demand for services, sharply reduced revenues. “You want smaller government, this is what it looks like.”

The political debate in Iowa is vigorous in the weeks before an election — and beyond. We believe Iowans should be armed with critical facts and perspectives that can help to cut through some of the discussion to get to the heart of what concerns Iowans and their families. So, in the spirit of this public debate, we are offering this resource to enhance understanding as Iowans monitor debates among candidates and elected officials, or prepare for their own over coffee with their neighbors.

Please visit this page often. We expect to update it with new materials regularly through Nov. 2 and perhaps beyond.

Social Security

Often a topic in campaigns, Social Security has a big impact in Iowa, both in individual households and for the economy. New data from the federal government provides a breakdown of Iowa beneficiaries of Social Security.

  • Each month, well over a half million Iowans benefit from Social Security (616,526).
  • Each month, these benefits bring to the Iowa economy over $616 million — $450 million to retired workers.

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Those are the latest figures from the Social Security Administration, and reflect December 2009 data. Click here for a one-page fact sheet from the IFP data bank on this issue. More information is available at this link for the Social Security Administration's Office of Retirement and Disability Policy. There you can find this breakdown by zip code in Iowa.

State Expenditures

Iowa state agencies and functions have seen declines in funding. When compared to the growth in personal incomes within the state, state general fund appropriations actually shrank by more than one full percentage point in the first part of the 2000s. Between FY04 and FY09, spending had been on an upward trend; it must also be noted, however that spending levels since FY04 have remained around a full percentage point lower than the high-watermark years of the 1990s. However, FY10 illustrates the effects of the recession and the Governor’s 10 percent across-the-board budget cut.

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For more on this issue and trends in state government employment, see the new IFP policy brief, "Getting Public Value Out of Public Dollars," by Andrew Cannon of the Iowa Policy Project. Read it here, or download a six-page PDF file.

Other issues:

Sales Tax TIF arrangements: How do they work? Whom do they affect? Who benefits? How do they affect rural residents? See our report. (PDF)

Project Labor Agreements: What really are they? Frequently Asked Questions( and Infrequently Provided Answers) are here.

An Accountable, Sustainable Budget for Iowa: What are the options? See our report.

Insuring Children: Why do more children in Iowa have health insurance coverage? See our backgrounder by Charles Bruner and Carrie Fitzgerald, with congressional district-by-district information.

Health Reform and Small Business: How does the health reform law help small businesses provide insurance options to their employees? How many Iowa businesses could benefit? See our policy brief by Andrew Cannon.

What has the Recovery Act done for Iowa? From nutrition assistance, to unemployment insurance, to weatherization, the Recovery Act has boosted localeconomies across the state. See our reports.


A joint effort of the Iowa Policy Project and the Child & Family Policy Center (logos).
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