Smith: Focus will be on education reform

Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, sees education reform as one of the key issues for legislators as the 2013 session opens Jan. 14.

Smith said it hinges on Gov. Terry Branstad’s soon-to-be-unveiled education plan, and legislators will work from there.

He would like to see continued support for preschool, ways to help students cut down on college debts and a bigger concentration of funds to community colleges.

“More money needs to go to community colleges,” Smith said. “Those Iowans tend to stay in Iowa.”

Commercial property tax reform is expected to be addressed again by lawmakers after last year’s unsuccessful attempt. Smith said the commercial property tax rate in the state adversely affects business.

“To stay competitive we have to make changes,” Smith said.

Smith will continue to work on mental health redesign this year as well.

“This is an area where we have huge disparities in services across the state and huge disparities on the funding of these services,” Smith said.

Creating and sustaining jobs will also be an important issue for the upcoming session, he said. Smith said they need to ensure adequate funding to go out and recruit businesses and to provide for a skilled workforce in the state.

With recent reports the state will have more money than originally expected this year, Smith is still wary of spending it.

“I think government always works best if it’s on a diet,” Smith said. “We need to continue to be cautious.”