By Rep. Todd Prichard
Welcome to the New Year and the 2018 Iowa Legislative session. I am back to work at the Capitol and wondering how this session is going to play out. Like every year, there are a variety of opportunities and challenges facing the legislature.
Challenges: The state of Iowa is facing a major budget shortfall for the second year in a row, and our health care, education and mental health systems are woefully underfunded.
Opportunities: We are close to a compromise with water quality, if lawmakers are willing to put principle before partisanship. Further opportunities include implementing needed work force development and job training initiatives, if those in the legislature are willing to make these types of programs a priority.
The budget and deficiencies in health care, in particular, are personally troubling to me. With a current budget shortfall of approximately $35 million dollars, the legislature is again forced to make cuts in the current budget. As per the Governor’s recommendation, these cuts will fall heavily on education and social programs. The Governor plans to cut approximately $13.5 million from Human Services and Medicaid and nearly $7 million from Community colleges and Regent universities. The problem is there is not much of any fat to cut from these programs. Community colleges took a $7 million cut last year and it looks like they will be cut again. This will result in higher tuition to Iowa’s students and cuts to job training programs.
In regard to health care and mental health, the state funding is woefully inadequate. Without a doubt, the hardest part of my job as a state representative is witnessing the impact of our health care system’s failings on people, namely the elderly, children and disabled. One particularly troublesome case I’ve seen that’s brought the problem close to home involves a woman in Charles City who is effectively being forced out of her home. Her managed care provider is refusing to allow the required hours needed to let her stay living at home – a truly devastating reality. Rather, the system is forcing her into a nursing home. The insanity of the situation is that the cost of the nursing home is dramatically more than that of in-home care. Situations like this, which to me are heartbreaking and cruel, arise when state policymakers put other interests before the interest of what is right for the people of the state.
The truth of the matter is the budget shortfall is an unnecessary and completely avoidable problem. In baseball, this is called an unforced error. With a booming national economy and historically low unemployment, there is no reason there should be a budget crunch that sends public health administrators scrambling to continue services and public university students shouldering higher tuition to pay for poor budgeting. There are things the legislature and Governor can do like reevaluating corporate tax credits, an area where we may find bipartisan support.
As always, it is an honor to represent my community in the State House. We start the New Year with many challenges and opportunities, my hope is that at the end of this year we can reflect on 2018 and say we took advantage of the opportunities and rose to the occasion to meet our challenges.
February 3 — Legislative Forum, 9 a.m. @ Chickasaw County Farm Bureau office, 506 W Milwaukee St, New Hampton
April 7– Legislative Forum, 9 a.m. @ Chickasaw County Farm Bureau office, 506 W Milwaukee St, New Hampton