(Des Moines) — A stalemate continues at the Statehouse over a key budget issue concerning mental health services.
That’s just one of the issues that must be settled before the 2021 Iowa Legislative Session adjourns. Friday was the last day for legislators to receive per diem payments and receive the services of legislative clerks and pages. State Senator Mark Costello chairs the Iowa Senate’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. Speaking on KMA’s “Morning Line” program Monday morning, Costello says the proposed shift in mental health funding from property taxes to the state’s general fund remains a sticking point.
“One of the big differences is how we’re going to handle the mental health tax,” said Costello. “My budget has in it $50 million or $60 million to replace the mental health levy. So, in the Senate, we’re trying to do a two-year phase out of the property taxes for mental health, and changing it over to the state funding on mental health, and increasing the amount of money spent on mental health.”
The Imogene Republican believes lawmakers can shift the funding stream without impacting services.
“The system we have in place right now, with the varying caps, and different counties paying different rates and stuff is really not a very sustainable method,” he said. “I definitely think it would be great to get rid of the mental health property tax levy, and go to the state funding. We have to make sure we have the money, and we need to hold our spending down in other areas. But, to me, that’s a priority. It’s definitely a priority at this point.”
Another obstacle in ending this year’s session concerns Governor Kim Reynold’s proposed renewable fuel standards. Reynolds is calling for a 15% ethanol blend for fuel sales in the state by 2026, and diesel with at least 11% biodiesel by 2022. Costello, however, says he’s optimistic lawmakers will find some sort of middle ground on renewable fuels.
“We worked on getting a compromise on that bill,” said Costello. “I’m pretty optimistic that we’ll at least reach something that will shift some of the incentives away from the E-10 to the higher blends of fuel, the E-15, and trying to get some infrastructure that is put in in the future, some aid for that, and making sure it’s E-15.”
Representatives of gas stations and convenience stores strongly oppose the standard. You can hear the full interview with Mark Costello here: