By Rep. Todd Prichard
Capitol Comments Column, April 6
Since the last time I wrote, the budget de-appropriation bill was introduced, passed and signed into law by the governor. This is the second year in a row that the Legislature and governor have made cuts to the current year’s budget more than halfway through the fiscal year. In other words, this marks two years of mismanagement of our state by the governor’s administration. This failure is obvious when state agencies and educational institutions do not have consistent budgets, and when revenue runs short despite a strong economy and low unemployment.
The $34 million cut from the current budget places further burden on state universities, community colleges, Human Services, Corrections (prisons), Public Safety and the Judiciary. The result of yet another year of cuts will hurt working Iowans, particularly the young and the elderly. The Board of Regents is already proposing large tuition hikes on students to cover costs. Community colleges, the state’s best and most responsive engine of job training, will have to make tough decisions. Cuts to Human Services means more cuts to Medicaid and rural health care providers. The Department of Corrections is already dangerously underfunded, the Judiciary has had to implement hiring freezes, while the State Patrol is woefully understaffed. In short, our actions have tremendous consequences on Iowans from every corner of this state.
In working with and listening to the people in my district, I know that there are certain expectations of our state government. We expect strong schools, compassionate and responsive human services, a well-run court system and a commitment to law enforcement. Instead, it appears that we have a majority party in Des Moines who wants to cut services for no other reason than to brag to voters in the next election that they “cut government.”
Likely campaign ads this election season will portray those cuts in a positive light. Don’t believe it. This state is cutting police officers, prison staff and social service workers. This budget de-appropriation will result in more withholdings of payments to private medical providers. Schools across the state will have to rely on budget guarantee because of insufficient funding. Recent attacks on correctional officers highlight the peril those workers are placed in when budgets don’t allow for sufficient staffing. The Department of Human Services is short nearly 1,300 workers. These are the people who perform welfare checks on the elderly and children, and who work with families with histories of abuse and drugs.
This is not the Iowa I want for my three children. When my wife and I decided to raise our kids here, we did not stay for declining school performance, inadequate public safety and cruel treatment of children, the elderly and the disabled. This, however, is the direction the current majority party leadership is taking our state. It is time we look to find ways that fund our state’s institutions without burdening working Iowans and local governments.
Upcoming Legislative Forums
April 7– New Hampton Legislative Forum, 9 a.m. @ Chickasaw County Farm Bureau office, 506 W Milwaukee St
April 7— Nora Springs Legislative Forum, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. @ Community Room in Nora Springs, 45 N Hawkeye Ave