By Steve Corbin, Professor Emeritus Marketing, University of Northern Iowa
With Iowa’s head-spinning 87th general assembly behind us, many citizens haven’t grasped the full impact of Republican governor Branstad approved laws, our economic condition and the lobbyist-guided GOP agenda.
For starters, on July 1, 2016, the beginning of Iowa’s fiscal year 2017, Iowa’s treasury boasted a $928 million surplus. The Legislature adjourned on April 22 with a $130 million deficit; $1.058 billion negative turnaround. The deficit is compounded knowing Iowa will lose federal funding and matching funds for many state agencies.
It’s important to remember GOP’s Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds’ 2010 pre-election promise of increasing family incomes by 25 percent and creating more than 200,000 new jobs by 2015.
Neither promise has come even close to fruition but could have been aided if the Republican-controlled House and Senate would have focused on strengthening K-12 public schools and building Iowa’s skilled work force.
A significant Legislature miscue was in continuing to give $611 million annually as corporate tax breaks. Iowa’s 38 tax credit entitlement programs have slowed our economic prowess and put us further in debt. A plethora of studies conducted by various institutes have found corporate incentives are of little long-term job creation or economic value.
Underfunding K-12 schools, eliminating successful family planning programs resulting in a consequential $3 million loss of federal funds, reducing Resource Enhancement and Protection Program funding, stripping $30 million from ISU, UNI and UI, closing ISU’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, reducing funding for child care assistance, altering Iowa’s heralded three-tier alcohol distribution system to benefit one convenience store, cutting job training and for Iowans with disabilities and stopping Iowa’s art in public building programs were just a few of the poorly-thought-out actions of our GOP-controlled Legislature.
Other GOP-driven mistakes orchestrated by lobbyists include limiting 184,000 Iowans in the public sector’s collective bargaining contract negotiations to wages only, freezing Iowa’s minimum wage to $7.25 and nullifying cities and counties to act otherwise, cutting worker’s compensation benefits for injured workers, requiring one of five forms of government-issued I.D. to vote that will discriminate against minorities, elderly and disabled, approving Wild West stand-your-ground and children usage gun rights, banning post-20 week abortions even in the case of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, funding block to Planned Parenthood despite 77 percent of Iowans supporting the health care service and limiting lawsuits for livestock producer nuisance, environmental hazards and medical malpractice.
There were at least seven missed opportunities from the 87th General Assembly:
• Ensuring equal pay for equal work.
• Passing any legislation to address the state’s pathetic water quality problem.
• Putting a stop to Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid privatization mess that has forced health care businesses to close due to non- or delayed-payment by insurance firms and placing in jeopardy the health care of 568,000 poor or elderly Iowans.
• Increasing instead of cutting inspections of nursing homes.
• Increasing instead of cutting $8 million for Department of Human Services field operations who protect children and seniors from abuse.
• Offering financial incentives for school districts to share administrative functions and improve efficiencies-of-scale.
• Offering financial incentives to expand Iowa’s preschool offerings assures a $4 economic payoff for every $1 invested.
Expressing my thoughts on Iowa’s legislature endeavors is one thing. Your thoughts are just as important.
Be proactive and let your elected state representative and senator know what initiatives you approve, which actions you hold in disdain and what issues they ignored.
This is your government. Elected officials work for you. Make them accountable and if you disagree with their decisions, remember at the next election you can give them an opportunity to find work elsewhere.