Urgent action alert from Democratic senator Rob Hogg.
Please read this message below and share. We can turn this around. We can work together for all Iowans, un-do the damage, and build a better future for our state.
Senator Rob Hogg
Pocahontas County Democrats
October 13, 2018
As a state senator, who has worked the last two years under all-Republican control, I want to go into some detail about how much damage Governor Reynolds and the Republican majority in the Iowa Legislature have done to our state so you can help educate Iowans about the issues most important to them.
For years, we have prided ourselves on bipartisan support for legislation. Even when Democrats were in control, we passed legislation that had strong bipartisan support, like raising the minimum wage and extending health care to 60,000 children in Iowa. Personally, I am proud that we got bipartisan support for the solar energy tax credit in 2012, the flood mitigation program in 2012, and the bill to phase out the state income tax on Social Security income that was signed by Governor Vilsack in 2006.
Unfortunately, since 2016, Republicans have used their single-party control for highly-partisan and ideological legislation that has done real damage to Iowans, such as their attack on workers’ rights, women’s rights, and voting rights.
They have also made major budget cuts because, they said, we didn’t have enough money. Well, that wasn’t true, the state has always had enough money. Over the last two years, we have always had over $500 million in our rainy day funds, but Republicans still wanted to make cuts that have hurt Iowans.
First, education. Republicans have short-changed our public schools, with increases of 1% and 1.1%, not enough to keep up with inflation. Gas prices are up 30% over the last two years, and one superintendent told me that the increases weren’t even enough to cover increased utility costs and gasoline costs.
On top of that, Republicans have actually cut early childhood education by more than $1 million a year, and we all know that early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make, and they have cut our community colleges in the middle of the budget year by over $5 million, and they have cut our universities by over $30 million. No wonder tuition and fees are going up. The state is now actually providing less support for our universities than it did in 1998, a generational disinvestment.
Second, health care. At this point, everyone should know about the Medicaid mess, and it is a real mess, hurting Iowa patients and hurting Iowa providers, and it hasn’t stopped the increase in Medicaid costs. But on top of that, Republicans have actually cut our two remaining mental health institutes by $1.7 million, cut substance abuse treatment by $2.5 million as part of overall cuts to the department of public health, cut tobacco prevention by $1.2 million, and this year, Governor Reynolds and Republican legislators cut medical education at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and Broadlawns by $8.1 million, at a time when Iowa already has a shortage of health care providers.
Third, public safety. They have cut our state troopers – we are close to the lowest number of state troopers in a generation. They have cut our courts and corrections. Corrections isn’t just about prison facilities like Rockwell City, like the cuts that Jake Thompson talked about, it is also community corrections and supervision of people on parole or probation, and because of those cuts, the rate of recidivism has increased from 29% to 35%, and combined with a higher number of releases from prison, recidivism now accounts for nearly 500 additional crimes a year that were not committed at the prior rate.
Another issue that has not gotten enough attention is the cuts to victim services for survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse. They cut that by 26%, or $1.7 million, in 2017, and haven’t restored any of it. And that makes it harder for victims to get services they need, and hurts our ability to prevent sexual assault and domestic abuse in Iowa.
Fourth, they cut human services, and you heard John O’Brien speak about that earlier. We have lost over 900 human service employees since 2011. And they actually cut aging services that provide support for the elderly through our area agencies on aging, and they actually cut the Iowa Veterans Home which takes care of elderly and disabled veterans in Marshalltown, and they actually cut veterans’ home-ownership grants by $500,000.
Finally, they have cut natural resources and flood mitigation, and flooding has been a real big problem in recent years. They cut the REAP program that is so important for our county conservation boards by $6 million, they cut the DNR and the DNR floodplain program, they cut the Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa by $328,000 (or more than 20%), and they eliminated funding for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.
I know there are other cuts, too, but the point is, Republican legislators and Governor Reynolds have been doing real damage to our state. They had an excuse for that, which is we didn’t have any money. Well, we did have the money, but if we didn’t have the money, why is that? After more than seven years of Branstad and Reynolds, the fact is their economic development strategy is not working. They promised 200,000 new jobs, and a 25% increase in family incomes, in five years, and eight years later they are still not close to either number.
But the real reason they made all these cuts that have hurt Iowans is because they wanted to pass even bigger tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers, and that’s what they did on May 5 of this year, using a process that didn’t even allow Democrats to offer any amendments.
That tax bill is heavily tilted toward the wealthiest taxpayers. For those of you in the room making over $1 million a year, and I won’t ask for a show of hands, you will receive on average a tax cut in 2019 of $18,773 – nearly $19,000 for every taxpayer earning over $1 million a year – a total of $49 million, more than all the mid-year budget cuts they did in 2018.
If you happen to make between $70,000 and $80,000, the average income tax cut will be $215, and for those making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year, the average income tax cut will be $92. Just $92 or $215 compared to $18,773. That’s unfair.
What makes this even worse is the tax bill is also expected to increase sales tax collections by more than $130 million a year – paid for mostly by working families and the middle class – and it will require even more cuts to education, health care, public safety, human services, and natural resources.
I know this long list is depressing, but Iowans need to know about it. And I really believe we can turn this around and un-do the damage with a renewed spirit of citizen involvement. This is our state. This is our country. This is our democracy. We can shock the world and elect Jake Thompson and John O’Brien to the state legislature in Pocahontas County. Please get more involved, educate your friends, family, neighbors, and fellow Iowans, get people registered to vote, get people to vote, so we can un-do the damage Republicans are doing to our state, and start working together for all Iowans to build safe, healthy, prosperous, inclusive, and growing communities in every county in Iowa.