A full ballot

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Anyone with doubts about the future of Storm Lake can put them aside and admire a crowded ballot of great, civic-minded people for mayor and two council seats. Just look at the mayor’s race: two native sons, Mike Porsch and John Crampton, both tremendously nice guys who love the place. Porsch has served for years on the city council and would represent the city with dignity and friendliness. Crampton wants to shake every person’s hand as he walks through a room — he really does want to meet people and learn. He has a Buena Vista degree. What more could we ask for? It’s a race where you don’t want to see either guy lose, but either way Storm Lake wins.

Five people are running for two seats on the council. Included is Jose Ibarra, who would bring back a Latino voice so important to the council. There’s our lifelong friend Dan Smith, who recently retired after 33 years working for Hygrade, IBP and Tyson. He knows Storm Lake. And Scott Randall, another native who has always offered sincere public service, and former Councilman David Grant Walker who is a smart guy and works like a beaver. Eric Chase is an information technology guy who works for the county, and that link is always a plus.

 We don’t think any of them want to grind an ax. If they do, they should put the stone away.

After a few rocky years, city hall is solid.

We have an amiable and capable city manager who is flexible and finds solutions. We have a public safety director who is recognized as a national expert in community policing of diverse populations. We have a public works department that has shed a weight in former management and is shining again. We have had some trouble with the budget the past three years, but a new finance director is getting a handle on things. King’s Pointe is under new management and is into the black. We are disappointed that the dredge had to go quiet but understand that all good things must come to a respite — not an end.

There is nothing terribly wrong that needs to be fixed. We have strong managers in place, good economic growth, the sprouts of perhaps a new wave of housing, harmonious cultural relations with police and each other. Things are going well. They will go even better, it appears, with the candidates who want to move Storm Lake forward. Civic involvement is alive and well.

ONE PROMINENT FEATURE missing from the council ballot in Storm Lake: a woman. We miss Sandy Madsen, Julie Egland and Sara Huddleston. Alta will have a woman for mayor: Pam Henderson or Chris Ledoux. Newell has four women running for city office.

Sleight of hand

Gov. Kim Reynolds avoided having to call the legislature into a special session this fall to cover a $100 million cash crunch with some solid revenue growth and accounting sleight of hand. Reynolds is not allowed to borrow more than $50 million from cash reserves without legislative permission. The legislature whacked spending plenty but it wasn’t enough to make up for short revenue.

Fortunately, revenues increased from June to September. And, the government delayed issuing refunds on corporate income and sales taxes despite having sufficient cash on hand to cover those refunds. That allowed Reynolds and the legislature, all Republican, to dodge an embarrassing special session as the party of fiscal responsibility. The shortfall was cut to $13 million and Reynolds may cover bills by spending down cash reserves. Jon Muller, a former director of revenue estimating for the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, tells us that he believes that the refund delay was about $40 million. The delay occurred in April when cash was available. There was no reason for it other than to cover the deficit. It is one thing to delay state aid to schools. It is quite another to rob taxpayers of what is theirs, without paying interest.

The special session was avoided but the festering mess is not. That is kicked to the regular session in January. By then, we might know how Reynolds came out in negotiations with the insurance companies who have been shorted at least $100 million under Medicaid “reform.” Insurance companies do get paid. There will be that reckoning, and it will land right in the middle of an election year.

Plus, there will be the remaining $13 million that must be repaid to cash reserves, and another $40 million or so that was hidden by a tax refund delay, and whatever revenues amount to after a third bad year for farm and agriculture-related income. The Republicans controlling state government have been making tax cuts and tax giveaways without thinking about when it all might bite them. It reformed Medicaid and closed down nursing homes, and is leaving health care providers in arrears. Now legislators are talking about breaking their promise to cities, counties and schools to backfill losses in property tax revenue wrought by giving away the farm to commercial and apartment property owners. If Democrats can’t take advantage of this and deliver us from this fiscal incompetence, Lord help the Iowa taxpayer.