Editor's note: Every other Sunday through the conclusion of this year's session of the Iowa Legislature, local lawmakers will share their Statehouse views.
Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City
As the grind of the 2018 session begins to take shape, my optimism for our Sioux City agenda is strong. Sioux City has been well represented as a flurry of our Northwest Iowa friends, business owners, education, law and fire enforcement, health care and Chamber members have made their presence felt at the Capitol. As I have said in the past, to those individuals who take the time to come down to Des Moines and make our Sioux City agenda literally felt, I say thank you. It makes my job a little more achievable when other lawmakers from across the state are given the opportunity to look directly into our eyes and hear our goals.
Personal income tax reform is on the way, and I believe the Senate is poised to lead as we positively reshape how we do business in Iowa. Key players like fellow Northwest Iowa Sen. Randy Feenstra have shown tremendous leadership and I believe will be key for Sioux City as we fight to renew the Targeted Jobs program which has allowed us over the past five years to compete aggressively with South Dakota.
My Second Amendment friends will be happy to hear that my constitutional carry bill received 18 co-sponsors and is poised to move through the committee process this week.
Medicaid fixes, mental health care, education savings accounts, traffic cameras and life continue to be live rounds. Overall, the mood in the chamber is positive, I am playing nice, and I believe this will be another great year for Northwest Iowa. This thing is just starting to heat up and I wish I had more specifics to share, but I assure you your delegation is working strategic and smart. More to come.
Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City
The biggest topic at the Statehouse the last few weeks continues to be balancing the state budget. The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) revenue numbers fell short again for the sixth consecutive time. These projections are employed by legislators on incoming revenue and expenditures in piecing together a budget. The economy is indeed growing, but not at the pace anticipated. That, coupled with a budget that has increased by over $3 billion in the last 10 years, has created our shortfall.
Actual revenue fell short by $35 million, and Senate Republicans are now forced to make deappropriations from the original budget for it to balance. This is a task none of us enjoys because the choices are always tough and affect many of the people we serve.
Senate Republicans’ initial deappropriations would cut $5.4 million to our community colleges statewide, which would mean a $300,000 cut to our WITCC. It also included a $7 million cut to our judiciary, which is already operating on a shoestring. These are not the final cuts. I will be advocating for reductions in both.
The cuts will affect almost every department, agency and organization which receives state funding. The Senate’s bill to reduce state spending adjusts the budget by a little over $50 million. This was done to provide some cushion if revenue estimates continue to come up short so additional cuts will not have to be made later this year.
No reductions were made to K-12 education. It appears that state supplemental aid (SSA) increase for each child should be at or near 1 percent. A number will likely come next week.
Tax reform is coming.
Please feel free to contact me with your questions at (712) 253-4270 and jim.carlin@legis.Iowa.gov.
Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City
The lifeblood of many rural communities is their school district, courthouse and hospital. Each of these employers offers a good paycheck, a secure retirement, and provides opportunities for young people to remain in the community to raise their family. The courthouse itself acts as a center of commerce, with many town squares built around it, generating income for shops and restaurants.
The budget cuts that began last year have put these rural economies at risk. What was initially a revenue shortfall has now grown into a full budgetary crisis, following the use of $144 million of legally questionable deficit spending by Gov. Kim Reynolds. As the Quad-City Times editorial board recently wrote: “The bludgeoning of Iowa’s court system would continue, with some officials saying more than two dozen local courthouses could close because of the GOP’s slash-and-burn approach to government.” Can Iowa truly afford to propose tax cuts right now? The Quad-City Times editorial board argues: “It’s a ready-made recipe for deficit spending and another round of mid-year cuts.”
In both rural and urban areas, delayed Medicaid payments have forced small business owners to close their doors and larger hospitals to engage in legal fights or absorb dollars that would otherwise be spent in our communities. Many are saying it’s time to end the failed Medicaid experiment and time to put Iowans back in control of our health care system.
Finally last week, Senate Republicans threw one more curveball at rural Iowa. They proposed to cut $5.4 million from community colleges midway into the fiscal year, putting education and training opportunities out of reach for all those concerned with the state’s workforce shortage. Unfortunately, these issues stem from same problem – lack of management skills and a long-term vision for our state. My hope is we can do better.
Rep. Tim Kacena, D-Sioux City
“In Iowa, we take care of people. That’s all I think I need to say.” - Steve King
There was a time that I believed that also. The 87th General Assembly has me wondering if somehow we have lost our way.
Last year we saw local control weakened in the interest of outside influence for the benefit of personal political gain. The privatization of Medicaid has been a headache for providers and patients across the state; there have been many cases of companies having to close their doors because of nonpayment or delayed reimbursements. Too many Iowans have been denied care in the interest of profit.
Our court systems are under attack from underfunding and have even issued a letter stating that they would be forced to close 30 courthouses indefinitely if the bill passes. Our prison systems are at a critical point and the assaults on guards are increasing due to short staffing levels. Our schools and colleges are underfunded, making it more expensive and increasingly difficult to get the education and training to fill the jobs our businesses need to be successful. A proposed increase of 1 percent to schools shows that we do not care about the education of young Iowans. We need to bring funding back to services that benefit Iowa.
The sanctuary city bill moving through the Legislature will not be a benefit to Iowans and the law enforcement agencies in this state. This bill will erode relationships between minority communities and law enforcement. This bill will lead to mistrust of law enforcement from those communities. Broken relationships also have the opportunity of letting crime go unreported. If we continue to create a hostile environment for immigrants and minorities it will have serious impacts on our culture and society. I know that Sioux City cares about its residents and will not support any legislation targeting sanctuary cities.
I was raised to believe that it is the responsibility of all of us to help someone in need, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and protect the vulnerable. These are Iowa values. If our actions do not mirror our rhetoric, are we really walking the walk?