The 2017 Iowa Legislature just passed the halfway mark.
What we’ve learned so far from the Republican majority is deeply troubling. Instead of focusing on the priorities of Iowans, they are passing the priorities of the special interests. They aren’t listening to Iowans nor are they actually working on legislation to improve the lives of working families in Iowa.
For the first time in Iowa history, Republican lawmakers are actually planning to lower wages for workers and the bill came from a special interest group aligned with the Koch Brothers. Already approved by Republicans in the House, the bill lowers the minimum wage already approved in some local communities and means 65,000 Iowans will lose out on a raise they’ve earned.
Now set at $7.25 per hour, Iowa’s minimum wage was last increased in 2008 while every state surrounding Iowa (except Wisconsin) has increased their minimum wage above $7.25. To meet basic living expenses, a single person in Iowa resident should make at least $13.16 an hour and that rises to $21.52 an hour for a single parent with one child.
Democrats believe we should raise incomes for Iowans, not lower them. That’s why we offered a plan to raise incomes for over 300,000 Iowans. Our proposal gradually raises the minimum wage to $10.75 over the next two years, but Republicans refused to bring it up this year.
When Republicans put special interests first, Iowans get lower wages.
A few weeks ago at the direction of special interest groups, Republicans at the State Capitol gutted Iowa’s collective bargaining law and took away rights from 180,000 teachers, law enforcement, and nurses across the state. That leaves them without a voice in their own workplace and demoralized about their future.
When Republicans put special interests first, hard-working Iowans lose their rights.
Up this week in the Legislature is another plan hatched by corporate special interests that punishes workers injured on the job. Called worker’s compensation, this system has been on the books for decades to protect workers injured on the job as well as prevent lawsuits against employers. Despite research showing costs have remained stable and premiums even went down last year, Republicans plan to pass a bill that overhauls the worker’s comp system and limits assistance to Iowans injured on the job, especially older workers.
When Republicans put special interests first, hard-working Iowans injured on the job lose their security.
There are countless other examples out there, but the biggest prize special interests have already received from Republican lawmakers is a whopping $500 million in new corporate tax giveaways enacted the last few years. Those giveaways have wreaked havoc with the state budget ever since.
Earlier today, the state’s non-partisan budget experts ordered Republicans to slash another $131 million from the state budget before the end of the year. That comes just a few months after Republicans were forced to cut another $100 million from the state budget. Of course, they conveniently shielded their corporate tax giveaways from any of the cuts.
As a result of the giveaways and fiscal irresponsibility of Republicans, public schools will receive the third lowest funding increase in Iowa history next year, tuition is going up at community colleges, and the University of Iowa is cutting scholarships next year unable to accept new young talent into the state. Those decisions all make our work to build a skilled workforce even more difficult.
When Republicans put special interests first, Iowa students lose out and our skilled workforce suffers.
Last fall during the election, Republican lawmakers made a lot of promises to Iowans about education, jobs, and our economy.
Turns out, the promises they made to the special interest just come first.