By Jean Caspers-Simmet
DECORAH, Iowa — After nine terms and 18 years in the Legislature, Rep. Chuck Gipp, a Decorah Republican, said it’s time to do something else.
"My leaving has nothing to do with the Republicans being in the minority," Gipp said. "I decided this would be may last term prior to the last election. It’s time to do something else and there are possibilities looming."
Gipp and his brothers milked Brown Swiss cattle until six years ago when they sold the cows and divided up the farm ground.
His brother, John, rents his land, but Gipp helps him plant and harvest. Last week, he was fixing fence.
"It’s my mental therapy," he said. "It keeps me grounded."
Gipp said he has some concerns as he leaves the Legislature. The first is the budget.
"One of the first people who ever lobbied me was our high school principal and he said, ‘Give us numbers we can count on, don’t give us pie in the sky.’ He said schools needed budget certainty. I’ve always kept that in mind, budgets need to be sustainable. I’m concerned that the current budget is not sustainable.’’
"The last two years we’ve increased spending by $916 million,’’ he added. "In the previous 12 years, spending only increased by $1 billion. We increased spending 17 percent in two years while revenues are growing at 3 to 3.5 percent per year. We can’t sustain that."
Gipp is pleased that the Legislature increased funding for roads and bridges.
"It’s not enough, but it was a courageous first step and it came through strong bipartisan efforts," Gipp said. "I’ve never seen our roads in as bad of shape as they’re in right now."
Gipp said he got involved in the legislative process because his farm was next to a privately owned landfill where industrial waste oil was being hauled 200 miles and dumped.
He was the first citizen member of the Winneshiek County Solid Waste Agency and eventually chaired it. It was that experience that led him to consider the Legislature.
"The landfill was next to my farm, and I decided if I don’t get involved, who will," Gipp said. "When I came to the Legislature we were working on practical environmental solutions to leaking underground tanks, waste tires and water quality. I was heavily involved in the idea to create the Environment First Fund which provided for water quality improvement, dealing with brownfields and cost-share for soil conservation."
Gipp also worked to create programs such as Vision Iowa and Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.
Property tax reform has been one of the most difficult areas to deal with while he’s been in the Legislature.
"There’s no association with ability to pay," he said. "It’s based on the fact that you own property. This has been the most vexing issue of my tenure."
During his years in the Legislature he was House majority leader for four years.
"It’s gratifying to have your peers pick you as leader," Gipp said. "It’s humbling and a lot of responsibility as well."