[Masthead] Overcast ~ 40°F  
High: 54°F ~ Low: 43°F
Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

State budget in doldrums

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dan Huseman
Just about everything concerning the state budget has been put on hold. Even though budget subcommittees continue to meet, nothing is being debated or passed. This is unusual. Also, the standing appropriations committee has only met a couple of times, so it appears the majority party is waiting for the federal stimulus bill to pass. This, they hope will rescue them from the spending spree of the last two years. It is so scary to hear people talk about this federal money as "free" money. It is neither federal or free -- it is taxpayer dollars, and somehow and someday, someone is going to have to pay this money back. However, the federal deficit is getting so big, I'm afraid that day will never come.

Once again, small schools are under attack here in Des Moines. A senator from Des Moines wants all schools with fewer than 750 students to consolidate. Now the state board of education says small schools need to hasten the pace of mergers and consolidations. Everyone knows how difficult it is to keep a small school running, but just compare the graduation rates of a small district to those of the Des Moines school district. Small schools have a much lower dropout rate. You would think that would count for something. Obviously, money is important, but it should not be the only point of consideration when consolidation is being discussed. Let the local boards and parents decide what is best for their children.

In 2007, the majority party rammed through a one dollar per pack tax increase on cigarettes. All of the money, we were told, would be put into a new fund called the "Healthcare Trust Fund," and it would be used for health issues. Sounded good to a lot of people. I didn't support the tax increase, because I knew it would eventually be spent on other things. Sure enough, the Governor is proposing the elimination of the Healthcare Fund, so that means all of the money from the cigarette tax increase will end up in the general fund. Promise made, promise broken.

Another fund headed for extinction is the Senior Living Trust Fund. The Governor wants this to go away after FY 2010. Which I guess is the only thing to do since all of the money has been scooped. The fund was used to pay for Medicaid, assisted living, Elder Affairs and adult daycare oversight. The original goal of the Trust Fund was to help people stay in their own homes longer. I thought it was a good program and I am sad to see it fade away. We made a commitment to elderly citizens and now we are pulling the rug out from underneath them. Another promise made. Another promise broken . Wait until you see what's going to happen to property taxes.

You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, at home on weekends at 712-434-5880, or fax me at 712-434-2012. You may write to me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is 6144 Y Avenue, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at dan.huseman@legis.state.ia.us