Senate Democrats want to put more Iowans back to work, strengthen our middle class and grow our state's economy. Several proposals we worked on this week would do just that.
1. Keep childcare affordable. Iowa is third in the nation when it comes to households with young children in which both parents work. That means Iowa families need good childcare, which can come at a high price. A federal child and dependent care tax credit allows working families to deduct 20 to 35 percent of eligible childcare expenses from their taxes. The maximum credit is $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more.
SSB 3181 improves our state tax credit by allowing Iowans to claim a state credit of up to 93.75 percent of the federal credit, increasing income eligibility to $67,410 and indexing for inflation. Another bill, SF 2143, allows parents who work and take classes to count the hours for both in calculating eligibility for childcare assistance. This encourages Iowans to continue improving their prospects for a better career and higher salary.
2. Increase pay. A higher minimum wage would put more money in the pockets of hard-working families, making them more self-sufficient and able to spend at local businesses. SSB 3194 would gradually increase Iowa's minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2016. A full-time employee making $7.25 an hour lives below the poverty line, earning only $15,080 a year. In Iowa, 81 percent of those who'd benefit from a minimum wage increase are 20 and older. Many are raising children and may be the sole breadwinner for their family.
3. Ensure Iowans can get to work. Transportation should never be a barrier to employment. A new initiative (SF 2076) will offer grants to transit providers that help Iowans get to their jobs. Up to $150,000 would go to projects on a competitive basis and require a dollar-for-dollar match. Transit providers might use the money to expand hours of service, create a ride-share program or offer shuttle service. Good transportation makes for reliable employees, and that's always good for business.
4. Make sure workers get paid. Wage theft cheats Iowa workers out of $600 million annually. Failing to enforce wage laws means Iowans don't get paid what they've earned, drives down wages and is unfair to businesses that play by the rules. SF 191 sets minimum standards to ensure Iowans get paid for the work they've done and allows wage investigators to more easily go after businesses that fail to pay what they owe.