Iowa earns national recognition

Upmeyer Column: Happy holiday! It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the end of 2017. I hope you all have had some time to spend with family and loved ones during this holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to each and every one of you!

As 2017 comes to an end, it’s a good time to reflect on the past year and the things we have accomplished during this time.

Recently, Iowa has racked up numerous national recognitions as a leader in a several categories including our education system, our strong economy, and our low cost-of-living. These studies and rankings make it clear that Iowans enjoy good-paying careers, excellent schools, and a high quality of life. I’m incredibly proud of these achievements and committed to doing even more as we move forward.

Responsible government

Iowa was recently named the third best run state in the country. The study was conducted by 24/7 Wall Street, an online financial news organization, and looked at various aspects of state government including our unemployment rate, poverty rate, credit rating, and pension funded ratio.

According to the report, “Iowa has one of the healthiest job markets in the country. Just 3.7 percent of the Iowa workforce were unemployed in 2016, the 10th lowest unemployment rate of any state … 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 percent of total state tax revenue, Iowa’s debt load amounts to just 26.1 percent — one of the smallest shares in the country.”

World class schools

Iowa was also recognized as a leader in K-12 education funding. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities recently published a study showing that Iowa is ranked fourth in the nation in K-12 per-pupil funding increases since 2008.

This should come as no surprise, as K-12 education funding has increased by $735 million since 2011. This substantial investment has brought total annual funding for schools to almost $3.2 billion, which accounts for 45% of Iowa’s entire budget.

These investments are clearly paying off as Iowa remains the best state in the country in high school graduation rates.

Strong economy

Iowa’s current unemployment rate of 3 percent is nearly a 17 year low. The last time our rate was this low was in January of 2001.

This is great news, but we can continue to improve. During the upcoming session, we will be looking for ways to innovate and expand access to job training programs so that Iowans can get the skills they need for 21st century careers. I’m hopeful that we can bring together people from K-12, our community colleges, local businesses, and the various trade associations so they can work together on these initiatives.

Affordable communities

Finally, Iowa has always had a lower cost-of-living compared to other states around the country. This is one of the main reasons that we were named as the best state for the middle class by GOBankingRates. This study analyzed median household incomes of middle class families, in-state college tuition rates, and average monthly mortgages, all of which Iowa ranked highly compared to other states.

I’m excited to see Iowa getting some well-deserved recognition as a great state to raise a family or own a business and we will continue to build on these achievements when we convene for the 2018 session next month.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or feedback that you may have. With session quickly approaching, I’d love to hear your priorities and thoughts on potential legislation. You can reach me at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3521.