In tonight’s Condition of the State address, Gov. Kim Reynolds laid out her policy plans for the year, from deep tax cuts to educator training programs to filling workforce gaps.
Jennifer Konfrst, Democratic minority leader in the Iowa House, said she needs a lot more detail about some of the governor’s plans before Democrats can jump fully onboard.
“What I’m concerned about here is that it was touted as a bold plan. And I’m not seeing a lot of bold ideas in here,” she said.
Konfrst thinks using federal money for broadband and child care are good ideas, but she wants a plan for long-term investments. She also said it’s nice to hear Reynolds focusing on professions like teachers, but giving them $1,000 bonuses isn’t going to solve problems of burnout and staff shortages in schools.
“There’s no long-term solutions for child care or health care or affordable housing,” Konfrst said. “We’ve got some one-off opportunities but nothing long-term that will truly build a future for the state.”
Konfrst said there was plenty in the speech to agree about fundamentally, like investing in child care, broadband internet, and teachers. But she also pointed out the governor failed to mention issues like affordable housing or the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that is still putting Iowans in the hospital.
“We are in no way out of this COVID pandemic and we could be by now if more folks would be getting vaccinated and if the governor would spend less time suing the federal government and more time encouraging people to get the vaccine,” she said. “There are people in hospital beds tonight in record numbers while the governor was giving this speech and she said nothing about the reason they’re there and that’s simply irresponsible.”
Konfrst also said some of Reynolds’ proposals would increase inequality in Iowa, whether that be putting more money toward private schools and calling it “parental choice” or having a flat, 4% income tax rate for Iowans at every income level.
“They’re great headlines, they’re great platitudes. But the devil’s in the details and we don’t yet know how this is going to be paid for, how is this is going to implemented fairly for all Iowans,” Konfrst said.
She also said some of Reynolds’ ideas are too simplistic and could do more harm than good. For example, she said, cutting the length of time people can be on unemployment is not going to help them find a job.
“The hammock analogy is certainly not one that folks who are trying to find a job or folks who can’t get child care so they can’t go back to work, are really going to feel is very fair,” she said as part of her official response to the speech.
In her speech, Reynolds said the unemployment safety net has turned into a “hammock,” and that’s fueling the workforce shortage.
Konfrst said the focus needs to be on solving true problems in the state rather than focusing on simplistic solutions or half-measures.
“Affordable housing is a critical crisis in the state of Iowa and we heard nothing from the governor tonight,” Konfrst said. “Child care’s critically important, public schools are important, and, finally, making Iowa a place that is welcoming. When we continue to see hateful, divisive legislation introduced, sometimes even passed, people who are considering whether or not to move to the state of Iowa are gonna see that and say, ‘No thanks, there’s a place somewhere else that actually welcomes my family.’ Or when people are deciding whether or not to stay, they’re deciding whether this is the kind of place that wants to be a welcoming community.”
by Nikoel Hytrek
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