Sen. Wilhelm

By Marcie Klomp

Mary Jo Wilhelm spoke in Elma and later went to Riceville and Lime Springs on Feb. 11.

At Elma Public Library she said, “This is the part of the job I like—you get to know what’s going on and to be a voice of the area.”

She told those in attendance Elma had a special place in her heart as she graduated from Kindergarten in Elma the same year the high school closed.

Since the proposed gas tax is a big issue in Iowa, Wilhelm asked the opinion of those present. Mildred Hrdlicka said, “I think it should be a tax on diesel and not gas. It’s the semis and manure haulers who ruin the roads.”

Wilhelm responded, “But then the farmers will argue the next tax will be on their tractors.”

Hrdlicka continued. “That’s ok. And, there should be an embargo on side roads.”

Wilhelm next spoke about the big three issues in the legislature right now: government education reform, mental health and commercial property tax.

Eduction is getting a major overhaul, and the House is looking at a bill to make changes.

Coming from a rural area, Wilhelm said she is concerned about mental health. Urban areas can find services in their town. Those in rural areas have to drive everywhere. “I want the same availability as in the urban areas,” she said.

The senator explained, “In the first two years of the recession, we were having a tough time. We kept hearing from Main Street people they were having a hard time keeping their doors open and then property taxes got higher and higher. We want to keep the small businesses going.”

Hrdlicka commented, “But if you give them a 40 percent break, we’d like a 40 percent break, too.”

Wilhelm talked about schools and taxes. “If the state cuts the school budget (so as not to raise property taxes) then the school has to raise taxes (to make up the difference). I’d like to see the government give the money to the kids, so they don’t leave Iowa for better-paying jobs to pay off their student loans.”

Wilhelm says she works with both Democrats and Republicans on issues, and she has to stick with those senators and representatives from the rural areas. “We need to educate the urban senators that you have to drive everywhere.”

Mike Bigley asked about sales taxes. “In the 1980s, sales tax was rolled back.” Wilhelm explained, “It’s still in effect. If you gift something like the diesel equipment tax, it’s hard to take it away. I’m very cautious when I make a decision.”

Bigley added, “If a farmer buys a tractor, there is no sales tax but if I buy a car, it’s 7 percent. Is that fair?”

During her visit in Lime Springs, Wilhelm spoke about the GAP and PASTE programs, which give financial assistance to people and helps individuals get a certificate to get a job.

The legislator was asked if people on help programs were checked on. She agreed there are problems when people are able to work but try for the free programs. “There are questions people are asked when applying and there are people who check, but the case load is high.”

Wilhelm plans to have more Listening Posts to hear what is on the minds of her constituents. To contact her, call 515-281-3371 or 563-547-4156 on weekends. Her email address is Mary.Jo.Wilhelm@legis.iowa.gov

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