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Branstad willing to accept $95 million tax break for one year only

News

February 27th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Governor Terry Branstad says he could go along with House Republicans’ plan to extend 95-million dollars in state tax breaks to Iowa small business owners and farmers who purchased assets in 2015. “It will be tight and it will use up a lot of the surplus over and above what we have in the economic and cash emergency account,” Branstad says, “but we could accept for one year.” Branstad did not include this recommendation in the plans he submitted to legislators in January.

Republicans in the House have voted to make this tax break available to about 177-thousand Iowa small business owners and farmers who’re filing their taxes right now and Republicans in the legislature would like to make it permanent, but Branstad says he’ll only accept a one-year extension. “We’d lose too much revenue,” Branstad says, “and it would put us in a financial position that we couldn’t sustain it for the long term.” The tax break under discussion is a credit for the depreciation of assets and would be available to small business owners and farmers who buy things like computer software, machinery, equipment and on-farm storage structures.

State officials in the past several years have aligned state tax law with federal tax policy in this area. The leader of Democrats in the Iowa Senate says there are private discussions among key legislators to determine what might be possible this year.

(Radio Iowa)

Branstad would consider minimum wage hike, but doesn’t expect legislature to pass one

News

February 27th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Johnson County currently has a minimum wage that’s higher than the state’s and officials in neighboring Linn County are considering a similar move. Governor Terry Branstad says it “would be better” if the base rate for hourly wages was set on a “statewide basis.” “But I understand we have a legislature that’s divided and there’s not a consensus on that issue, so I’ve indicated a willingness to consider it, but I just don’t perceive that there is a consensus in the legislature between the parties addressing increasing the minimum wage,” Branstad says.

Branstad made his comments today Friday, during a taping of Iowa Public Television program, “Iowa Press.” Last fall, Johnson County officials passed an ordinance that raised the minimum wage to eight-dollars-and-20 cents an hour. It will go up to 9-dollars-and-15 cents an hour on May 1st in Johnson County, although some communities in the county were allowed to “opt out” of the minimum wage hike plan.

On January 1st of next year, the minimum wage for most of Johnson County will rise to ten-ten ($10.10) an hour. Officials with the board that governs the University of Iowa are discussing a move to “opt out” of the higher minimum wage rate for Johnson County, because students in work study programs at Iowa would be paid more than work study students at Iowa State and U-N-I.

(Radio Iowa)

Ethanol industry advisor expects more mergers in 2015

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 27th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

A biofuels industry advisor says the ethanol industry is “ripe for consolidation.” Bruce Comer, director of California-based Ocean Park Advisors, says if tight ethanol margins continue, more companies will be evaluating their options. “If margins stay where they are, more owners, more board members, and more managers are going to take a harder look at whether to continue to own and continue to fight the fight, or to look at other opportunities,” Comer said. “At a minimum, checking the market for what their assets might be worth.”

Comer notes that there are still 94 “stand-alone” ethanol plants that account for more than five billion gallons, or 36 percent of domestic production. “That steady march of consolidation of those 94 independent plants, I think we can expect to see that (continue) for the next several years,” Comer said. “And depending on how this year turns out with margins and inventory and exports and some of those other factors, it could push that number up and we could see a very active year.”

Comer says the pace of ethanol exports will be one of the key factors to watch over the remainder in 2016.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa students admonished for “Trump!” chants at hoops game

News, Sports

February 27th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A group of Iowa high school students has been admonished for seemingly using Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s name as a racial insult during a boys’ basketball game. The chant occurred Monday during a playoff game between Dallas Center-Grimes in West Des Moines, a largely white school, and Perry, a more diverse school north of Des Moines.

According to DCG activities director Steve Watson, roughly a dozen students out of the 120 or so in attendance chanted Trump’s name after their team lost to Perry. Trump has drawn fire for saying that illegal immigration from Mexico brings rapists and drug dealers into the U.S. and other controversial statements.

Watson says the chant was uttered three or four times before administrators stopped the students. He declined to say whether the students were disciplined, citing privacy policies.

Iowa early News Headlines: Sat., 2/27/16

News

February 27th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

NORA SPRINGS, Iowa (AP) — The owner of a northern Iowa strip club says he’s not worried about efforts to change the city’s zoning and close his business because he considers it a “theater of performing arts.” Dale Peterson, who recently opened the Pole Barn Theater in downtown Nora Springs, told the Globe Gazette the city’s plan to change zoning for adult entertainment won’t stop him. The City Council will discuss the matter Thursday.

ELK RUN HEIGHTS, Iowa (AP) — Authorities say a northeast Iowa man has died after he dropped his handgun and was struck by a bullet. Deputies were dispatched to an Elk Run Heights home around 12:30 a.m. Friday and found someone giving CPR to 45-year-old Martin Lawrence. The Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office says he was taken to a Waterloo hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — A Cedar Rapids man has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of a Waterloo man. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports that a Black Hawk County jury handed over the guilty verdict Friday afternoon for 26-year-old James Robert Ernst the Second.

DECORAH, Iowa (AP) — Two doctors who testified for the prosecution at a man’s first-degree murder trial reached slightly different conclusions about how his wife died in her Boone home. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports Doctor Michelle Catellier conducted an autopsy on Emily Fazzino’s body, and Doctor Brad Randall reviewed the results. Both doctors testified Friday in a Winneshiek County court.

Bluffs man critically injured when his motorcycle hits a pickup

News

February 27th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Police in Council Bluffs say a pickup and a motorcycle collided Friday evening at an uncontrolled intersection. The accident resulted in the operator of the motorcycle, 35-year old Steven Bascue, of Council Bluffs, being transported to Creighton Medical Center for treatment of critical injuries. Bascue was not wearing a helmet, and witnesses told Police his cycle may have been speeding prior to the crash, that happened at around 5:51-p.m., at the intersection of S. 19th Street and 4th Avenue.The posted speed limit in the area is 25-miles per hour.

Authorities say 51-year old Juan Ramos, of Council Bluffs, was driving a 2005
Dodge Ram pickup southbound on S. 19th Street, while Bascue was operating his 2003 Suzuki GSF1200 motorcycle and traveling eastbound on 4th Avenue. The motorcycle impacted the passenger side of the truck behind the passenger door.

Ramos was not injured in the crash. No citations were issued, pending the outcome of an investigation by the Council Bluffs Police Department Traffic Unit.

Public hearing set for CCHS Budget

News

February 26th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Officials with the Cass County Health System (CCHS) say a Public Hearing will be held next month on the Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget. The hearing takes place 7:30-a.m. March 15th, in CCMH Conference Room 1.

The proposed $50.6-million dollar budget is about $2.1-million dollars more than the Re-estimated budget for Fiscal year ending June 30th 2016, and includes more than $2.1-million raised through taxation. The proposed taxation rate is $2.50 per thousand dollars valuation.

During the March 15th Public Hearing, and resident or taxpayer may present objections to, or arguments in favor of, any part of the proposed budget.

Page County man arrested on warrant for burglary

News

February 26th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Deputies in Page County, Thursday night, arrested a man wanted on a Missouri warrant. 26-year old Nathan Andrew Wilcoxsen, of Coin, was taken into custody at around 8:20-p.m. on a Nodaway County, Missouri warrant for Felony Attempted Burglary in the 2nd Degree, and property Damage in the 2nd Degree, a Class B Misdemeanor.

Wilcoxson was taken to the Page County Jail. He was unable to post the $15,000 bond and was held pending court proceedings for extradition to Missouri.

Cass County Sheriff’s report (2/26): 3 arrests

News

February 26th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office today (Friday) issued a report on recent arrests. Officials say 36-year old Joshua James Mullen, of Atlantic, was arrested this (Friday) morning on a District Court warrant for Probation Violation. Mullen was taken to the Cass County Jail where he remains held on $10,000 bond.

On Wednesday (2/24), deputies arrested 24-year old Alex Michael Garside, of Atlantic, on a charge of Driving While Revoked. Garside was taken to the Cass County Jail and was released the following day on his own recognizance.

And on February 19th, 32-year old Matthew Wayne Echternach, of Atlantic, was arrested on a Montgomery County warrant. Echternach was taken to the Cass County Jail and later transferred to Montgomery County.

Deere to lay off 100 workers at Davenport, Dubuque plants

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 26th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Farm and construction equipment manufacturer Deere & Co. is cutting 100 manufacturing workers at two Iowa factories.  Layoffs effective April 1 include 80 workers in Davenport and 20 in Dubuque. Both factories are part of the company’s construction and forestry division. The Moline, Illinois-based company said Friday it is balancing the size of its workforce with market demand for some of its products.

Last week Deere cut its full-year earnings forecast citing weak sales of farm and construction equipment. Falling commodity prices have made farmers less likely to buy new equipment and declining oil prices have affected its construction equipment sales. In November the company announced that it would idle about 220 workers. For fiscal 2016, Deere anticipates equipment sales declining about 10 percent.