Guest post from House Democratic Leader Mark Smith
The 2017 Legislative session starts on Monday and Iowans should know there’s trouble ahead.
Swept into office with political outsider Trump, Iowa Republicans now control every branch of state government. While many Iowans are tuned into DC, the situation here at the State Capitol should is just as alarming.
Republicans want to make good on a number of promises for their special interest friends and out-of-state corporations looking for another handout. Unfortunately, that also means stacking the deck against everyday Iowans who are working hard but still not getting ahead.
Over the last several years, Republicans have exponentially increased corporate tax giveaways, which now top $500 million annually. But that hasn’t stopped Republican leaders from promising another round of tax breaks for the special interests and their corporate friends.
The reality is the corporate tax giveaways have not produced good jobs, skilled workers, rising incomes for hard-working Iowans, or a stronger economy like Republicans promised. Rather, the giveaways have slowed the state’s economy, left the state with a $135 million deficit, and shortchanged critical investments in education and public safety.
Closing Public Schools
After years of courting from homeschool advocates, Republican leaders are planning to make some bold moves this session to move public schools to the back of the line.
In addition to shortchanging public schools to make way for more corporate tax giveaways, Republicans plan to scrap Iowa’s law which keeps education the top state priority. They also plan to launch a new voucher system that will shift hundreds of millions in our tax dollars from public schools to homeschools and private schools instead.
The inevitable end result of their education plans will be more school closings and it will be a disaster for rural Iowa.
Women’s Health Care
After unsuccessful attempts to roll back women’s health care in previous years, Republicans are planning to limit difficult medical decisions that are best made by a woman and her doctor. The Senate Republican leader also said this week that reducing access to cancer screenings, birth control, and other health care services for women will be one of the first four bills they pass this session. The special interest groups lobbying for these changes are well organized and they are expecting results from Republicans.
Stripping Away Rights from Iowa Workers
One of the top priorities of Republican legislative leaders is to end Iowa’s bi-partisan 40- year-old law that allows law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers, and public employees to bargain with their employers for fair wages, health care insurance and other benefits. They’ve spent years blaming teachers, correctional officers, and other public servants for the disastrous results of their own policies. At the urging of corporate-funded special interest groups like ALEC, expect Republicans to use the same playbook used in Wisconsin a few years back that led to massive protests and political turmoil.
Touting support for public schools while planning to reward homeschools. Giving away hundreds of millions in corporate tax breaks while saying no money is available for schools or state troopers. Empathizing with the struggles of working families but rewarding the special interests by taking away the rights of hard-working Iowans instead.
Republicans deserve credit for effectively masking their real agenda with misleading slogans, millions in special interest cash, and half-truths throughout the campaign. They rode the wave of political discontent into power on the backs of hard-working Iowans.
If the Republican agenda gets enacted, the bad news is that hard-working Iowans will find the deck is stacked against them.
The good news is there’s still time to stop the Republican special interest agenda. As the Democratic minority, we will be a strong voice for working families across Iowa and fight for real progress everyday at the State Capitol.
But we can’t do it without help from Iowans. I hope you will join us and hold Republican politicians accountable this year through calls, emails, and visits to the State Capitol. With Republicans in full control at the state and federal level, there’s just too much at stake this year.
Iowans should heed this warning and be ready to take action because there’s real trouble ahead.
by Mark Smith