Iowa Law Makers: “We Have No Money This Year”

Iowa State Capitol

Iowa State Capitol

Posted on Iowa Labor News,  an electronic newsletter for the Labor Movement, specifically in Iowa, sponsored by the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO

By Charlie Wishman
Secretary/Treasurer Iowa Federation of Labor

All over the capitol, you’ll hear the same refrain from legislators from both parties. “We have no money this year.” It’s amazing what short memories they have, since many of them helped to cause this situation. We warned them two years ago that if they passed the “Largest Tax Cut In Iowa History,” (which was a massive property tax cut for corporate Iowa) we’d be in trouble in a short amount of time. It hasn’t taken long, and the effects are starting to show.

The Governor and his party have made some dangerous choices in reaction to the situation. One example is that they have proposed closing the mental health institutes in Clarinda and in Mount Pleasant. Not only on the worker side is this problematic as they plan to close two of the larger (union) employers in these communities, just as with other short sided decisions like closing the Iowa Juvenile Home they don’t seem to have a workable plan as to what to do with the residents of the facilities.

Another example of bad budgeting is the Governor and his party proposing to seriously short change our education system, proposing a 1.25% increase in funding next year followed by a 2.45% increase the second year. These proposals fall far short of the 6% recommended by our friends at the Iowa State Education Association and lower than the Iowa Senate’s plan that includes a 4% increase.

There has been positive movement in the House Labor committee by holding several sub-committee hearings on the issue of payment to employees with pay cards (HSB94). More and more Iowans are being paid on a card of some kind, sometimes without knowing what charges the cards have when trying to use the money they earned. Is this bankers and employers working together to rip off workers? No matter what anyone’s motives are, this has led to a unique form of wage theft that needs to stop, and rules need to be in place so workers and employers both know what expectations the state has. There are many issues that need addressed about these cards because currently this form of wage payment is not addressed in the Iowa Code.

The fight for a livable wage took a bad turn this week, with Senate Democrats signaling they would settle for a much lower minimum wage than the $10.10 we and many other of our partners have advocated for. SSB1151 would only raise the minimum wage to $8.75 by 2016, which is still not enough for a family to live on. We should do better as a state, and Iowa Senate Democrats should be leaders on this issue.

Contact your state Representatives and Senators and let them know that working families need a higher minimum wage than $8.75, and that we need a budget that looks out for all Iowans – not just corporate interests.

If you don’t know them or how to contact them, you can find that here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators

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