DES MOINES — A group representing Iowa’s largest chambers of commerce is urging lawmakers to take steps to address the shortage of qualified and available workers in the state. Iowa Chamber Alliance executive director Dustin Miller says many people stop looking for work because they can’t find — or afford — childcare.

“It’s about entrepreneurs. How do you get more people into the childcare industry? And how do you help the people in the childcare industry have the employees that they need?” Miller asked. “So, it’s something that we think that there’s going to be a big push for this session.”

The Chamber Alliance also supports recommendations from the governors criminal justice reform committee that call for improving education and training programs so more people are ready to work when they’re released from prison.

The Iowa Chamber Alliance held its annual policy forum yesterday. The group’s executive director says the group supports overall tax reform if lawmakers raise the state sales tax. A ballot initiative passed by voters in 2010 says that 3/8ths of the next penny sales tax increase must go toward conservation and water quality. That leaves a debate for the legislature over how to use the rest and Miller says his group will argue for a reduction in the taxes businesses pay, because some neighboring states have far lower sales tax rates.

“We have members competing across the river in South Dakota at 4.5 cents. So how do you balance those sorts of things?” Miller asks.

Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver has said Senate Republicans will not support a sales tax increase unless it is part of an overall tax reduction.