What a work list

EDITORIALS 

BY ART CULLEN

Our friend and Storm Lake native Jesse Case, who leads most of the Teamsters in Iowa, compiled a list of 25 actions by the Iowa Legislature and governor (all Republican, all overreach) that add up to disaster for the state, working-class folks especially so. He uses it on his stump speech around the state. It is so disturbing viewed as a list we shamelessly are expropriating it, to wit:

• Created barriers and reduced workers compensation for all future injured workers.

• Cut funding for community colleges.

• Saw to it that funding for the University of Iowa and Iowa State University is now at its lowest level since 1998.

• Cut vocational rehabilitation funding, hurting people with disabilities and our economy.

• Took away access to Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings and other preventative health services.

• Cut funds for our two remaining mental health institutions in Cherokee and Independence.

• Cut funds for field investigations of child abuse and elder abuse.

• Cut water quality funding.

• Cut budgets for courts, corrections, public safety and human services, and emptied the Cultural Trust Fund.

• Short-changed Iowa’s public schools with the third-lowest school aid increase ever (1.1%).

• Prohibited local governments from using pre-qualification for project bidders.

• Cut state funding for services to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault by 26%.

• Eliminated the Watershed Improvement Review program, and slashed natural resource funding by 25% ($4 million cut).

• Circumvented “Buy American” and “prevailing wage” rules for road projects.

• Took away bargaining rights from more than 180,000 public service workers.

• Reduced the minimum wage for 65,000 Iowans by repealing all local wage ordinances.

• Created new government barriers to voting.

• Took away outreach for our children’s health insurance program, HAWK-I.

• Cut funds for nursing home inspections by $270,000.

• Cut funds for food safety inspections by $700,000.

• Cut the Iowa Flood Center by $300,000.

• Reduced National Guard tuition assistance by $1 million.

• Cut local hospital reimbursements by $27 million.

• Cut reimbursements to local nursing homes.

• Cut veterans home ownership assistance by 20% ($500,000).

That’s a lot of work to get done. We recall most of these items, but not all of them. We remember shuddering at what was going on, with nothing to block the harm or even slow it down. We can’t go on like this. We need big changes next year.

More growing pains

The Storm Lake School District has good problems to manage. Enrollment at the elementary school is up 7% this school year compared to last, and the kindergarten class crested over 200 students. Yet the elementary school was full before enrollment was counted, and after the count we find 60 more elementary students. That’s three class sections. Our early childhood facilities (East School and the Gingerbread House) are ill-fitted for today’s education environment. We need new facilities. That’s what the numbers should tell any of us.

Supt. Carl Turner and the school board have been studying the issue for a couple years. They would like to rely on renewal of a local option sales tax for another 30 years in the next session of the legislature. Our representatives are well aware of the need for that sales tax to renew. But you cannot be certain until it is signed by the governor. The alternative to finding more than $20 million is through steep increases in property taxes, which must be approved in a bond referendum that requires 60% voter approval. That is a high bar for any district to meet these days — appropriately high, because property taxes are the worst and most regressive kind of tax.

The sales tax is popular in rural areas, it is needed in urban areas, and it is vital to Storm Lake as it grows. The only reason not to approve a renewal is the politics of endorsing a tax, any tax, in the current crazy political environment. This tax is proven, it is acceptable to almost everyone, and it is needed. The enrollment numbers remind us of that.