The first order of business this session for Governor Branstad and Republican lawmakers is fixing the state budget deficit they created this year with over $117 million in state budget cuts.
Their mid-year budget cuts include an $18 million cut to Iowa’s three state universities, a $3 million reduction to Iowa’s 15 community colleges, $38 million chopped from Medicaid and human services, and another $5.5 million cut to public safety.
The budget deficit isn’t really a surprise to those of us watching closely because we’ve been warning Republicans about the long-term consequences of their reckless policies for several years. This year, it’s finally catching up with them.
First, Republican lawmakers proclaim every year in their oft-repeated budget “principles” that they will “spend less than the state collects” and they will “not use one-time money to fund on-going needs.”
Except they’ve done just the opposite for the last three years in a row. According to figures from the state’s non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, Republican budgets approved the last three years (Fiscal Years ‘15, ‘16, and ‘17) all spent more than state collected while the state’s surplus has been whittled down from $900 million to the -$110 million deficit this year.
Turns out their much lauded budget “principles” are actually “alternative” facts.
The Republican budget deficit Iowa faces today started a few years back when Branstad and Republicans dramatically increased new corporate tax giveaways that now cost the state an additional $500 million this year and every year after.
Branstad even gave away $110 million in our tax dollars to a single out of state corporation just a few years ago while new tax credits have more than doubled the last several years as well. A story in the Des Moines Register this week found the state gave out $12.1 billion in exemptions and tax credits through 373 different programs.
In addition to the huge price tag, it’s troubling that a large share of those giveaways are shipped to out of state corporations. It’s also troubling that those giveaways have not reached the average Iowan. In fact, sales and income tax dollars paid by hard working Iowans now go out in giveaways to corporations, redistributing wealth from Iowa taxpayers to corporations.
It’s unfortunate Iowa Republican lawmakers haven’t learned the lessons of their Republican colleagues down in Kansas who tried the same scheme. They approved massive corporate tax giveaways that have led to chronic budget deficits, a stalled economy, and even forced public schools to shut their doors early.
So here’s the truth. The Republican tax giveaways have not produced good jobs, skilled workers, rising incomes for hard-working Iowans, or a stronger economy like they promised.
While Republicans are trying to turn the page quickly and pass their budget cuts quickly with the hope Iowans will soon forget, Republican lawmakers would be well-served to start listening and consider the impact their corporate tax giveaways have had on the lives of real Iowans.
If Republicans keep passing corporate tax giveaways, we’ll be faced with the same budget problems next year and real Iowans will be forced to clean up their mess again.