We must stop balancing state budget on the backs of workers
The 2017 Legislative session opened last month at the Capitol, and I was fortunate to be in attendance. In the first week, usually no real legislation is passed but instead we hear from state leaders like the governor and chief justice of the Supreme Court. Every year I am sure to pay close attention to the Governor’s address as he will outline his legislative priorities and concurrently release his budget proposal for the coming year. As many of you may know, this current and coming year will be a tight budget year.Unfortunately, it looks like the state is short of its current budget by $115 million and the Governor is proposing wide ranging cuts to state departments to deal with the short fall.The causes for this shortfall are many. For reasons that are unclear at the moment, revenue or tax collection receipts are down unexpectedly from previous estimates.There are likely a number of factors driving this trend. Farm commodity prices are low and that affects income across Iowa’s economy. Also, revenue from corporations is down last year over 9 percent due to corporate tax breaks.The Governor’s speech paid the usual lip service to education (a paltry 2 percent increase in school funding, which Republican leaders in the Legislature want to reduce to 1.1 percent) and job growth and job training. While I generally support what the governor is hoping to do, unfortunately, he has cut the state revenues too short to be able to fund any economic growth initiatives. Given the short fall in revenue, the state can’t fund the governor’s priorities.After the Governor’s State of the State speech to the Legislature, the legislature also heard from Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady. Justice Cady talked about programs the Iowa Courts are implementing to divert juveniles from criminal activity and the success drug courts have to keep addicts from entering the prison system. My take away from Justice Cady’s remarks was that programs that target treatment and other options short of sending nonviolent offenders are reducing repeat offenders and saving money for the state by decreasing the prison population. Unfortunately, the governor’s budget proposal cuts the Judiciary budget by $8 million. Again the tight budget situation will hamstring the courts’ ability provide innovative and cost saving programs to Iowans.The situation for the state is unfortunate. The governor’s schools, courts, universities, community colleges, veterans, the State Patrol (and many other important departments and programs) are all facing serious cuts to deal with the drop in revenue. This is the governor’s solution, cut programs that aid Iowans.There is another option to deal with budget cuts: Cut tax breaks for corporate interests. This year, the state plans to provide over $400 million in various tax credits. Many of these tax credits help working Iowans and families. However, many credits don’t seem to benefit anyone except corporate interests. The governor and the legislature need to reevaluate our generous tax credit system to 1) ensure a benefit to the people of the state and 2) avoid too many giveaways to out-of-state corporate interests.It time to stop balancing the budget on the backs of workers and ask corporations to pay their fair share.