State budget puts corporate welfare above schools, health

By Rep. Todd Prichard

I’ve been catching up on my local newspaper reading lately.  Two stories caught my eye. I read a piece about a Charles City woman who can’t receive the services she needs to maintain herself in her home due to cuts forced by her Managed Care Provider. The other article focused on how the Charles City Community School District is now dealing with a $500,000 budget cut next year.

Both of these stories are interrelated, they share a common theme. And that is that the state budget and the lack of state support for basic health care services and education directly leads to these stories happening in the first place.

I know the story of the Charles City woman who is struggling with her in home health care services very well. She contacted me for help last summer, and I brought her problems to the department that oversees Medicaid, and recently, to the attention of the Charles City Press. Michelle is in desperate need of assistance. She is perfectly able to stay in her home with proper assistance. And to boot, her care would be less expensive in home as opposed to a nursing home facility.

Despite the obvious need to fund Michelle’s in home care, there is unwillingness by the new privatized Medicaid health care system to do so. And there is also profound disregard by the current administration and state leadership to even address the fact that there are enormous service gaps within our Medicaid system. The situation is maddening and unnecessary, and I consider it a humanitarian crisis.

Perhaps equally frustrating, but not quite as immediately dire to one’s health, are the cuts to the Charles City schools. To be fair, there are two cited reasons for the cuts: declining enrollment and lack of state aid. The budget situation the school district finds itself in will likely cause an elimination of staff positions and loss of programming — all at the expense of students. The reality is that this becomes a vicious cycle: cuts to the school, the school looks less attractive to families new to the community and enrollment continues to decline.

The irony of this overarching situation is that despite record-low unemployment and a stable economy, the state’s budget is in crisis. This is what’s causing the current-year allocations and dip into the rainy day fund. But here’s the thing – it’s not raining. The state is short on money because of one thing: poor prioritizing. Would Apple still be able to churn out nifty new phones if Iowa hadn’t awarded it a $208 million tax break? A quick internet search of that particular tax break brings up a Los Angeles Times story that ran last August. What was the title of the article? “Iowa’s Handout to Apple Illustrates the Folly of Corporate Welfare Deals.” Well said.

Enter the Governor’s budget and tax plan. It has hit the House Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member. Despite the state’s lack of funds to support and prioritize health care and education, Gov. Reynolds is proposing corporate tax cuts and individual cuts to the state budget in the amount of $1.7 billion over the next 6 years. Worse yet, the Senate wants to cut the budget by $1 billion dollars as soon as next year. Where will this money come from to pay for these tax cuts? The answer is that it will come from us. It will come in the form of even less funding for schools. It will come in the form of even fewer supports for those who need them.

I suppose if we are trying to eliminate all health and education services in the state, we should adopt the Governor’s or Senate plans. For me, there is another obvious answer to our tight money situation. We should eliminate the $600 million dollars in corporate welfare incentives and actually invest in schools, healthcare and other essential services that make Iowa a great place to live, work, raise a family and retire. We are capable of doing so much better.

March 16— Legislative Forum, 10 a.m. @Chickasaw County Farm Bureau office, 506 W Milwaukee St, New Hampton (Note: Date change)

April 7– Legislative Forum, 9 a.m. @ Chickasaw County Farm Bureau office, 506 W Milwaukee St, New Hampton

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