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After almost 20 years serving Iowans, the Iowa Policy Project has merged with our longtime colleagues at the Child and Family Policy Center to create a new organization: Common Good Iowa. This website is being phased out and new content posted at our new site, now live at We also have a new blog, found here.

Both of these new sites will include selected content from our previous IPP and CFPC websites. Contact us if there is something you cannot find from those previous sites. We hope you will find that our new organization offers even more than what you could expect before, as we all work for the Common Good of Iowa and people-centered policy that meets the needs of every Iowan.


A Local Option Sales Tax for Johnson County? Issues to consider
In 2014, there was a vote on adoption of a 1 percent Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) in Johnson County. Iowa City proposed using 50 percent for trails, streets, and other infrastructure, 40 percent for property tax reductions, and 10 percent for affordable housing. As some consider whether to try again, there are issues to consider — some new about the property tax angle, and some lingering issues about tax fairness.

For more, see Peter Fisher's two-page backgrounder.

The State of Working Iowa 2020
COVID-19 Economic, Health Crisis Exposes Iowa Weaknesses
Iowans are still enduring an economic and public health crisis that leaves the state staring down a Labor Day weekend as dark as any since the Great Recession 12 years ago.

“The economy fell off a cliff in March 2020, and we are still picking through the wreckage and tallying the damage,” Colin Gordon writes in the “State of Working Iowa” update for Common Good Iowa.

For more, see the new report. Or, see the news release.

rotundaOpportunities to reform policing, community safety
New report identifies key data, potential for reform in budgets
Police spending per capita has grown over the past 30 years and consumes a greater budget share in Iowa’s seven largest cities, while social spending has on average declined, a new report shows. The George Floyd killing in Minneapolis and other widely documented cases of police brutality have prompted large-scale protests in Iowa and nationally. With a spotlight on police spending and police practices, a new IPP report by Colin Gordon and Peter Fisher looks at budget trends by state and local governments, not just for policing but other public services.
See IPP’s new report. July 22, 2020
9-page PDF.
News release. Or 2-page PDF.

Will Washington step up to help states avoid cuts?
State fiscal relief from Congress must do more than meet emergency services
With a new budget based on a mirage of revenue, Iowa will need far more federal assistance for state and local governments to avoid cuts in critical services. Due to the recession and health emergency caused by COVID-19, revenues are certain to fall well short of what is needed.
Iowa Fiscal Partnership brief by Peter Fisher UPDATED July 14, 2020

Many happy returns: Bottle, can redemptions to resume
Iowa bottle law benefits to resume after COVID interruption
Grocery stores in states with bottle deposit laws like Iowa are resuming bottle collection after an interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Iowa is scheduled to resume grocery store redemption on July 25th.
IPP backgrounder by David Osterberg July 21, 2020

Broadband needs and opportunities in Iowa
Iowa's broadband gaps are significant — and important
As so much of daily life moved online during the pandemic, unequal access to the internet became an urgent problem for communities across the state. Two decades after the emergence of broadband, or high-speed internet, many rural communities lack the infrastructure to support distance education, telecommuting, or telehealth.
Backgrounder for IPP by Karen Mossberger, Caroline Tolbert and Scott LaCombe.
Or 2-page PDF

Also see full report

Housing assistance critical in crisis
Rent, mortgage relief in COVID response misses many Iowans in need
Rent and mortgage relief is sorely needed to prevent a wave of evictions and foreclosures, forcing families to double up or seek homeless shelters at a time when social isolation is still needed to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus. A step forward came with Governor Kim Reynolds’ creation of the “Iowa Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Program,” funded with federal relief dollars, though it is questionable that the amount will be enough, and its design will miss many families needing assistance in this economic crisis.
See IPP backgrounder by Peter Fisher.

COVID case hotspots host meat plants
Spotlight shows rural areas, especially with packing plants, are COVID-19 trouble spots
Now 13 of Iowa’s 99 counties had 10 or more confirmed cases per thousand residents on June 10. Each has one thing in common — a large pork or beef or turkey plant.
Updated IPP backgrounder by Peter Fisher and David Osterberg
June 10, 2020

June 1 IPP backgrounder by Peter Fisher and David Osterberg
Or 2-page PDF

Also see Peter Fisher's recent blog

Big challenges and choices ahead
Bolster LIHEAP to help struggling Iowans — key piece of putting economy on track
Other states have innovative programs for home energy assistance. In the short term of responding to the COVID-19 crisis, simply adding to federal LIHEAP funds could serve Iowans struggling to meet home energy bills — and boost the economy.
See Iowa Policy Project backgrounder May 29, 2020
Or 2-page PDF

Why not deal with two serious threats at once?
COVID-19 responses could also address climate change — and help low-income Iowans
While federal and state responses to climate change have been slow, there are ways national leaders now dealing with the spread of COVID-19 could address both threats and help low- and moderate-income families at the same time.
See IPP’s new report.
Or the news release.

Demanding a healthy way back to work
Jobless benefits directive misreads Iowa, federal law in crisis
Iowans want to get back to work. But — much more importantly — they want to get back to work under conditions that protect their health and safety, and the health and safety of their families and communities.
See Colin Gordon’s backgrounder
Also an Iowa Policy Points blog

Governor’s comments bully concerned workers
Contrary to her claims, workers have protections from unsafe work
Governor Kim Reynolds has publicly warned workers that if they do not return to jobs in businesses reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, they do not qualify for unemployment benefits. Not so fast, Governor.
See the statement from IPP director Mike Owen

A critical time for action in Iowa
COVID threat spreads; state policy response is needed to augment federal actions; good start on jobless benefits
Responsible actions at the federal level require a state response as well.
See Iowa Policy Points post by David Osterberg

Unemployment insurance
State actions on unemployment insurance are welcome news. The four-week break in the legislative session is a good opportunity to look for other ways to strengthen the system to protect working families.
See Iowa Policy Points post by Peter Fisher

Medicaid and SNAP
The current health emergency is an opportunity to bolster both Medicaid and SNAP (Food Stamps) to make sure they operate as intended, mitigating the impact on Iowans while our state and local leaders do what they can to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
See Iowa Policy Points post by Natalie Veldhouse

State fiscal relief — a lesson from the Recovery Act
The 2009 Recovery Act offered a good example of how state fiscal relief, in addition to the temporary boost in Medicaid funding, can aid in recovery from economic problems caused by the current health emergency in the United States.
See Iowa Policy Points post — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Many issues remain in background of the COVID-19 crisis

School-aid deal still leaves schools short
Decade average is below new 2.3 percent deal
and behind average for previous 10 years

To put the House-Senate agreement on school aid in perspective, take a step back for a better view. It's not a pretty picture for Iowa public K-12 schools.

See Iowa Policy Points post by Mike Owen

Ernst & Young biz tax rankings
Breaking trust
with the trust

Governor Reynolds’ tax plan
breaks free of voters’ intent

Iowa voters should be getting more than Governor Kim Reynolds is proposing for purposes they expected in approving a constitutional amendment in 2010 to improve outdoor recreation and water quality.

Full report (4-pg) Feb. 14, 2020
News release (2-pg)
Backgrounder (2-pg PDF)

Peter Fisher's guest opinion in the Des Moines Register
David Osterberg's guest opinion in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

How to keep clean water and revenue equity together as priorities
Full report
News Release

Iowans working hard, falling short

Cost of Living in Iowa update shows how ‘cliffs’
in work supports send families over the edge

“Work support” policies help low-wage working families survive, keep children out of poverty, and provide a path to better education and better jobs. Before the current pandemic, nearly 120,000 Iowa working households did not earn enough to meet basic needs. Single parents face greater challenges than married parents, and Iowans of color face greater challenges than white families.

Strengthening Pathways to the Middle Class:
The Role of Work Supports
Jan. 8, 2020
Backgrounder, 2 pages
News release

The Cost of Living in Iowa 2019 Sept. 24, 2019
Backgrounder, 2 pages
News release

Race in the Heartland
Equity, opportunity, policy challenges
in Iowa and Midwestern states

A half-century removed from the high-tide of the civil rights movement, progress on racial equity has slowed or stalled on many fronts. Nowhere is this more starkly evident than in the 12 states of the Midwest region, where racial disparities in economic opportunity and economic outcomes are wider than they are in other regions, and policy interventions designed to close those gaps are meager.

Full report by Colin Gordon Oct. 10, 2019
News release or PDF