Teachers, Farmers and Business Owners Face Tax Hikes, Republican Legislators Say

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DES MOINES, Iowa-- "Coupling" was a popular television show in Britain. The term has a different form of popularity with Iowa Republican legislators right now.

Monday, Republican lawmakers made another push to allow the practice of coupling for Iowans on their 2015 tax forms. They say legislators have allowed the procedure every year except once over the past decade -- they halted it one year following the devastating floods of 2008. The coupling allows people to claim similar deductions on their state taxes that they do on their federal taxes.

Teachers can use the provision to claim some of the expenses they have buying supplies for their classroom. Farmers and other business people can claim some of the bills they have for new equipment.

"I could have planned differently if I would have known," Dan Rickles, an Anamosa farmer, said of recently getting word he might lose the tax deduction. "I buy equipment that spurs a lot of jobs. It helps the economy."

Senate Democrats have expressed reservations about the $95 million hit the state's treasury would take if legislators extend coupling another year.

Last Thursday, Senator Joe Bolkcom, and Iowa City Democrat and Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement:

“Based on a recommendation from Governor Terry Branstad and David Roederer, Director of the Iowa Department of Management, the Iowa Senate will not couple Iowa’s tax law with the federal changes for tax year 2015. We simply cannot afford to couple with federal changes this year and responsibly balance the state budget.”

Governor Terry Branstad didn't include coupling in his budget for the coming year. However, Monday, the governor shifted on the possibility of coupling this session. His spokesman, Ben Hammes, emailed Channel 13 this:

"The governor supports House File 2092 given we can still fund the budget priorities of Iowans. Those priorities were clearly laid out in the budget the governor proposed: on-going education funding, fully funding the property tax and teacher leadership commitments, and not underfunding Medicaid. The governor believes this is possible and will work with the House and Senate through the budgeting process. The path on coupling should be chosen sooner rather than later as Iowa farmers, families and small businesses face a March 1 filing deadline and deserve to know."

When asked why the governor has shifted his position, Hammes responded:

"After discussions with legislators during this budget process, Gov. Branstad believes it is possible to couple one-time vs. ongoing coupling in the future."

Bolkcom then capped off the statements with this:

“The Governor and his budget director have both publicly stated that if we provide adequate funding for education, the state cannot afford to couple this year. In a perfect world, we could do both. However, unless Governor Branstad has a new, specific proposal to provide adequate funding for education as well as coupling, I’m afraid that the Governor is just playing a game with these important issues.”

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