About That State Surplus

photo courtesy of progressiowa.com

Kim Reynolds gave the “State of the State” address the other night. One of her points of pride during the speech was her claim that Iowa’s budget was $1.25 Billion to the good. Of course it was a center point of her speech. Her basic claim was (paraphrased) “Look at how great we Republicans are! We have pandemic, yet we were able to manage the state so well that we have been able to run the state and come up with a budget surplus!”

Coming from Iowa as I do, I detected a whiff of hog manure. It is a familiar smell. In this state. Actually, it was a strong smell of manure.

This is hardly a new claim. Reynolds has been touting her incredible fiscal management skills since the budget surplus was first reported back in October. It smelled then, but other concerns kept me from digging in deeper at that time. But I was hardly the only one who was suspicious. I am so glad they were, because they cleared up the mystery for me. 

One thing I did note at the time was that Iowa, like many other states, had received large buckets of money from the federal government to deal with all the unexpected costs that fighting Covid sprung on the states. This made sense, even though governors like Reynolds opposed this bill. She did take the money when it came, though.

So I cast around the internet to find a definitive analysis of the Iowa budget situation that Reynolds and all Republicans claim is little more than their incredible talent. While most of the analyses were in what I would call a ‘he said –  she said’ vein, there was one excellent deep dive analysis that really laid the budget machinations bare.

And so once more I take my hat off to Laura Belin at bleedingheartland.com. In her analysis, from back in October looks at the timing, the moneys coming from the federal government and how Iowa compared to other states in our situation.

This whole budget event is laid out starting from the early pandemic up to the report of the budget surplus in October. People may recall that despite taking most of the money from the federal government without squawking, Reynolds did do some grandstanding last summer by cutting off extra unemployment benefits to Iowa’s unemployed workers. 

Following the deep dive, Belin does a great job summing up what she said in four paragraphs. In a nutshell she summarize a lot of great material into some very understandable themes:

So, what is to be learned from this deep dive into budgets and outcomes? First, Iowa – like every state – is benefiting from historic federal assistance. The entirety of Iowa’s surplus could be matched and exceeded by the federal assistance the state has received in 2020 and 2021.

Second, Iowa’s current budget fortune is largely the result of following its own budget laws, which a Democratic-controlled legislature put in place long ago.

Finally, a strong argument can be made that some of the current surplus might have been better used to grow Iowa’s economy.

The Republican cheers about the strong budget results remind me of an old baseball analogy. It sounds like Kim Reynolds and her minions were born on third base and think they hit a triple.

A big tip of the hat to Laura Belin for making this budget flip-flammery quite understandable.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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