They’ve built a sham

EDITORIAL

BY ART CULLEN

It would be incredible but it is not. The Republicans running this state have sealed the deal on a $400 million tax cut while running chronic deficits of well over $100 million annually. You would think that people who talk of fiscal responsibility would never consider such a tactic. But the instinct with the GOP is to cut taxes, especially when backed into a corner with an election fast approaching. Everyone is supposed to get a break ranging from 22% to 25%, the wealthiest getting the biggest percentage cut, of course.

They did the same thing in Congress. Their backs against the wall with a lecher for a President, they approved a huge tax cut to buy time and maybe some swing votes. Gov. Reynolds is surrounded by scandal, sexual and fiscal, the Senate is in disarray and the House might be in danger of tipping blue. Dial up the biggest tax cut in history.

Yet …

The state won’t be able to “backfill” property tax payments lost to commercial property tax reform three years ago. That will cost the City of Storm Lake $180,000. The Iowa Legislature is not good on its word.

We still don’t know how the state will pay insurance companies that are supposed to run the Medicaid program. Those talks are secret. Iowa has lost $400 million because of Medicaid privatization. It has lost 20 nursing homes because of short and late payments. Patients are waiting or being denied service because the system can’t or won’t pay. It is costing the state at least $100 million more than it used to. Evidence is the fact that the state had to borrow $144 million to pay the insurance companies what they need this year.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been greatly diminished because of cuts wrought by bad management. The coordinator position for confined animal feeding — this is the largest hog and egg state in the USA — was eliminated. As many as 5,000 confinement operations were unaccounted for, last we knew, by IDNR. The state geologist position was eliminated — the one that studies drinking aquifers that are being depleted. It has not been possible to model the current capacity of the Dakota Aquifer, from which we draw our water, in eight years because of short funding. Our rivers and lakes are choked with toxins, and young people flee because of it.

K-12 schools are getting by on 1% allowable growth, less than the rate of inflation. Teachers are going on strike in West Virginia and Arizona. Is Iowa next? Tuition at Iowa Central Community College is going up. The Iowa Tuition Grant that is vital to Buena Vista University is frozen. Our schools are fading under austerity.

How can we even consider a $400 million tax cut?

We have put in more than $800 million in tax cuts in the past 25 years that have come home to roost. Our roads are a wreck. Rural mental health care is a joke. Sexual predators are placed in nursing homes, unguarded, to save money. Soil conservation offices are closed half the week. Clerks of court can’t get their work done. Judges are overloaded. Justice is delayed and denied. Department of Human Services caseloads have quadrupled while needy and abused children wait.

The Koch Brothers are supplanting the funding for the nationally renowned journalism and ag econ programs at Iowa State University that the state used to pay for.

And what have we gotten for all this the last 25 years? Half as many farms, empty schools in Fonda, lakes waiting to be saved from sedimentation, and a bunch of tongue-slackers in the Senate who couldn’t balance a checkbook.

After they have bankrupted this state, broken its public employee unions and spirit and emptied this state, we will wonder what we did and change course. But look at the damage done. Look at the sheer stupidity of it. Say that this makes rational sense — when you are short $100 million per year, you cut your revenue stream by $400 million, to give yourself a $500 million hole. That means $500 million more in cuts — on top of the hundreds of millions already cut by Reynolds without legislative endorsement — combined with budget gimmicks to put the pain on the credit card.

Teaching the children and caring for the elderly and infirm poor are essential state functions. We can’t even pull those off anymore. That’s not Iowa. That’s a sham.