Very bad news this week for both Governor Kim Reynolds and the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported the second quarter economic growth by state (GDP). Iowa’s economic growth was a negative .7%, dead last among all 50 states. Of the 50 states, 48 had positive growth in this period. Only Iowa (-.7%) and South Dakota (-.3%) had a negative growth rate.
While one quarter’s performance doesn’t predict future growth, it’s a huge embarrassment for the Iowa Republican Party. The Republican Governor and the GOP control majorities in both branches of the Legislature and have driven Iowa’s economy to last place in the nation. They can’t blame the Democrats for this economic disaster.
This latest economic data simply confirms what most Iowans already know. Republicans’ mismanagement of state government has led Iowa to a budget train wreck. Under their management they have taken a budget surplus of nearly $1 billion in 2013 to a budget deficit this past year. In the Reynolds regime’s struggle to balance the state budget this past year, they slashed spending by $118 million and ended up borrowing another $144 million to end the budget year. One wonders if former Governor Terry Branstad didn’t foresee the budget mess he and Reynolds were creating and decided to abandon ship by taking the China gig.
The new legislative session begins in January and the state budget starts out in a big hole. Reynolds is obligated to begin to pay back the $144 million borrowed in 2017. In addition, the cuts they made in 2017 have left many state departments and agencies struggling with the previous cuts.
Reynolds’ budget cuts have devastated Iowa’s schools from K-12 through and including our public universities. Reynolds has achieved last place in the nation in economic growth. Will Reynolds continue to starve public schools with budgets that put Iowa in last place in education? Iowa’s public universities are on track to raise tuition by an unsustainable 35% over five years thanks to the Republicans’ budget mismanagement. Reynolds is allowing the University Regents to balance her budget on the backs of Iowa college students. With Iowa student college debt at an all-time high, these proposed tuition hikes are unacceptable.
Reynolds’ Medicaid privatization is already in crisis and headed toward catastrophe. One of the three insurance companies have pulled out and the other two have failed to adequately meet the needs of Iowa’s most vulnerable residents. It certainly appears the just announced 3% increase won’t meet the needs of these 600,000 Iowans. The potential economic repercussions from an out-of-control $5 billion dollar Medicaid program could devastate the state budget.
Iowans can’t accept a governor and a Republican legislature that are satisfied with last place in economic growth. Iowans want and deserve leaders that are problem solvers, not just budget cutters. Anyone can simply cut budgets. It takes leadership to set priorities, grow our economy, improve educational opportunities and protect Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens. Reynolds has failed the test of leadership and it’s time for a change.
by Rick Smith