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The Ways and Means Committee is one of the most powerful in the Legislature.  It is the committee that addresses all tax issues, which means it is the committee that will need to take the lead to fix the funding of the regional Mental Health and Disability Services system.  As you may know, adult MH/DS services for those not eligible for Medicaid or needing services that Medicaid does not cover are funded through local property taxes.  These property taxes were frozen in the mid-1990s and have not been allowed to grow to cover increased costs, new services, and accellerating demand for the services.  Since property taxes are involved, the Ways & Means Committee will be front and center on this issue.

For several years, Rep. Guy Vander Linden (R-Oskaloosa) was the chair of the House Ways & Means Committee.  He retired this year, but Rep. Peter Cownie (R-West Des Moines) was tapped to take over that position.  However, Rep. Cownie lost his election, so the House Ways & Means Committee Chair position was up for grabs again.

While House leaders have not yet announced their committee chairs or the members of various committees, they did announce that Rep. Lee Hein (R-Monticello) will be the new House Ways & Means Committee Chair.  Rep. Hein is a farmer and has been chair of the Agriculture Committee, where he's worked very closely with the Iowa Farm Bureau, one of the biggest opponents of a property tax funded mental health and disability services system.

 “It is an honor to be chosen by Speaker Upmeyer to lead the Ways and Means Committee,” said Rep. Hein.  “As a lifelong farmer, I understand the importance of certainty and simplification of the tax code.  I will continue to protect hard-working taxpayers while leaving more money in the pockets of Iowa families and small business owners.  I am excited for the opportunity to lead this important committee.”

Committee chairs will be announced in the coming weeks, with full committee lists available sometime around the beginning of the year.  Stay tuned to our social media & breaking news section of www.infonetiowa.org for updates.