Guest Post by House Democratic Leader Mark Smith
Our system of government is set up with a series of checks and balances. Right now, Iowans picked a divided government, which means we have to work together to move our state forward.
After 21 years in office, Governor Terry Branstad apparently doesn’t understand that. He is working over-time this year trying to anoint himself as King of Iowa.
King Branstad has decided he doesn’t need legislative approval nor does he have to follow state law to get what he wants. It’s a disturbing pattern we’ve seen from Branstad over the last few years and, unfortunately, it’s gotten worse.
Just a few weeks ago, Branstad directed his own bureaucrats at the Iowa Department of Revenue to enact a $37 million tax cut for corporations through “administrative rules” instead of getting approval from the Legislature. That bill was introduced last session but not approved by the House or the Senate.
Earlier this year, Branstad said he would privatize the state’s Medicaid program. It serves 560,000 seniors, expecting moms, and disabled Iowans. He said it would save the state $51 million but last week told reporters he can’t provide any proof or data to back up those savings.
Last spring, Branstad officials and lawmakers negotiated a budget agreement to end the 2015 legislative session. After the bi-partisan agreement was sent to the Governor’s desk and lawmakers adjourned for the year, he vetoed much of the agreement, including key investments in public schools and community colleges. School leaders and parents are understandably incensed because Branstad stopped listening and then broke the agreement.
Last winter, Branstad unilaterally shut down two mental health institutes in Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda without approval and over the objections of lawmakers from both parties. The terrible consequences of that decision include the deaths of three Iowans moved out of those facilities. He is currently being sued in court over the closure.
That’s four examples of Branstad overstepping his authority trying to be King in the last year alone, but there are more.
In 2013, Branstad shut down the Toledo Juvenile Home for girls without consent from lawmakers and made sure every resident was moved out before session started up in January.
In 2011, Branstad tried to fire the non-partisan Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner. It’s a position that is shielded from political influence with a six year term that can’t be changed by the Governor. When the Commissioner refused to resign under political pressure from Branstad because he was protected under state law, he was demoted. A lawsuit is still pending and so far Branstad has spent $850,000 of taxpayer dollars to defend himself for trying to break the law.
In 2011, Branstad closed several workforce centers that help Iowans find a good job without approval from the Legislature and was rebuked by a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court for overstepping his authority.
Using bureaucrats to enact a tax cut. Not listening to school officials or parents. Ignoring the will of Legislature. Trying to fire someone protected by state law. Closing care facilities without authorization.
Those are all actions suitable if you think you are King of Iowa, not Governor of Iowa.
It’s no surprise that I vehemently disagree with the Governor on these issues as a matter of public policy – I firmly disagree with him on every count.
The bigger problem here is the Governor consistently abusing power when he doesn’t get his way. But Branstad doesn’t seem to care. He will act unilaterally to get what he wants over and over and over again.
After being in office for so long, Branstad has successfully built a new legacy for himself: The Governor Who Thought He Was King.
by Mark Smith
House Democratic Leader
Featured photo by Gage Skidmore