Speaking out on the state’s budget

A special public hearing was held on the state’s budget crisis this week. We requested the hearing to learn what impact mid-year budget cuts proposed by Gov.Reynolds and Republican lawmakers would have on the lives on everyday Iowans.

Several Iowa students warned lawmakers that another round of budget cuts would make it more difficult for them to finish their education while preventing future students from getting additional education after high school at all. Another Iowan was concerned about growing waiting lists for people who need access to mental health care. We also heard from a mother who said budget cuts ended assistance for her child to get hearing aids, which aren’t covered by insurance.

Those stories are just a few that were shared this week, but there are more. The budget mess last year meant victims of domestic violence had access to fewer services; fewer at-risk kids could attend preschool; correctional officers faced new dangers with low staffing; and more nursing home inspections and elder abuse claims are going without investigation.

The impact of the state budget mess is especially acute for Iowans in rural areas where cuts to basic services at schools, courthouses, and hospitals threaten the very lifeblood of their communities.

Since this is the fourth time the state has faced a budget deficit in the last year, I’ve heard from a lot of Iowans concerned about the state’s budget troubles and wondering how we got in this mess.

The truth is the state’s budget troubles are largely the result of corporate tax giveaways that have increased exponentially the last several years and now cost Iowa taxpayers more than $500 million annually.

Those giveaways have turned the state’s $900 million surplus into a budget deficit that topped $250 million last year. To fix that deficit, Reynolds and GOP politicians borrowed $144 million on the state’s credit card last year and left Iowa families with the bill. Last fall, Gov. Reynolds even illegally transferred millions to fix the state budget instead of calling for a special session. We also just learned about a new tax plan offered by Republicans that would cost $1 billion annually.

Instead of working together to find bipartisan, long-term solutions, the governor and Republican leaders have continued to look the other way and hope the state budget mess gets better. They’ve known about this problem since last October, but still have not reached an agreement to fix it.

The budget ideas proposed by Reynolds and Republicans so far to fix the current budget deficit fall well short of what’s needed. The plans we’ve seen so far from them do nothing to protect taxpayers from the GOP’s excessive debt, unpaid bills, and general mishandling of the state budget in the future.

Their budget plans also do nothing to rein in, cap, or even just review the hundreds of millions in corporate tax giveaways that have driven the state to this budget crisis. Instead of developing a plan to repay the debt they’ve borrowed, Republicans even outlined a new tax cut plan this week that would cost the state $1 billion annually.

Democrats believe it’s time to work together to balance the state budget and restore fiscal discipline again. We need a long-term solution to the state’s budget problems because Iowans shouldn’t be forced to pay for the GOP’s budget mess any longer.

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State Rep. Mark Smith of Marshalltown serves the 71st District in the Iowa House and is the Iowa House Democratic Leader.