Iowa’s 88th General Assembly started Jan. 8. Before looking ahead, remember on July 1, 2016, the beginning of Iowa’s fiscal year 2017, Iowa’s treasury boasted a $928 million surplus. Our legislature adjourned on April 22, 2017 with a $130 million deficit; $1.058 billion negative turnaround.
Republicans have announced an additional $45-90 million in reductions will have to occur just to break even by June 30, 2018. In retrospect the GOP-controlled House, Senate and Governor’s office wish they had not agreed to continue handing out $611 million annually as corporate tax breaks.
Eight months after the 87th General Assembly adjourned, it’s evident Iowa’s GOP underfunded K-12 schools, reduced Resource Enhancement and Protection Program funding, stripped $30 million away from ISU, UNI and UI, reduced funding for child care assistance, defunded ISU’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and cut job training for Iowans with disabilities.
Oh, let’s not forget GOP legislation limited 184,000 Iowans in the public sector’s collective bargaining contract negotiations to base wages only, froze Iowa’s minimum wage to $7.25, cut worker’s compensation benefits for injured workers, approved Wild West stand-your-ground and children usage gun rights, banned post-20 week abortions even in the case of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, blocked funding to Planned Parenthood and successful family planning programs (despite 77 percent of Iowans supporting the health care service) and limited lawsuits for livestock producer nuisance, environmental hazards and medical malpractice.
Lest we forget, last year’s General Assembly: 1) refused to ensure equal pay for equal work (sorry, women), 2) pass any legislation to address the state’s pathetic water quality problem, 3) ignored Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid privatization debacle, 4) cut down the inspection of nursing homes and 5) cut $8 million from Department of Human Services while terminating 800 field operators (who protect children and seniors from abuse).
An eight month post analysis of Iowa’s 87th General Assembly (2017) actions clearly reveals Iowa’s Republicans followed suggested legislation provided by ultra-conservative Americans for Prosperity and American Legislative Exchange Council (both funded by Koch Industries) instead of representing their liberal, centrist and conservative constituents.
• With the whirlwind flurry of crazy Iowa politics we witnessed during January-April, 2017, gird your loins as it may get worse in 2018.
Expect cuts to occur in: 1) Court Appointed Special Advocates (voice in courts for abused and neglected children), 2) food inspections, 3) nursing home inspections, 4) UNI, ISU and UI economic development programs, 5) Iowa Workforce Development and 6) agriculture research.
Don’t be surprised when the following programs are eliminated: Hawk-I (health coverage for 60,000 children) and IPERS retirement program for new hires. The promised tax rollback payments to cities and counties as well as “local control” for city and counties will be curtailed.
Expect legislation proposed to: 1) privatize prisons, 2) relax Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation rules and regulations, 3) give tax-free credit unions the same privileges as tax-supporting banks, 4) permit gun carrying in schools, 5) roll back school bullying protection policies, 6) expand school choice from current $52 million allocation to $240 million (causing significant harm to rural public schools) and 7) ironically, support the death penalty while promoting pro-life.
• Iowans witnessed a Democrat-controlled House, Senate and Governor’s office in 2007-2011 that was as dangerous to the overall public good as is the current GOP’s complete control. Let’s learn from history and do NOT permit one party to control all three entities.
In the fall 2018 elections we need to do everything in our power to make sure we have a divided government. If not, we’ll witness continued chaos and harmful actions that will take decades to resolve.