Week 6 Recap: Vouchers & Death Penalty stalled, Religious Exemption passes committee, Forum on S
WE MUST SPUR GROWTH IN EVERY IOWA COMMUNITY
With almost one-third of the 2018 legislative session behind us, I hope that Republicans and Democrats in the Statehouse will start spending more time helping Iowans get ahead.
Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 2.8 percent, but that doesn’t mean everybody has the job they want or the income they need to make ends meet. We must ensure every Iowa community has the tools to thrive—especially our small towns and rural areas.
I am eager to get to work on proposals that Puts Iowans First. It’s time to get back to the basics—to help improve Iowans’ everyday lives and provide more opportunities. That means focusing on our shared values, including better-paying jobs, great education and affordable health care.
MID-YEAR CUTS DO NOT REFLECT IOWANS’ PRIORITIES
In a recent Iowa Poll, Iowans shared what they see as the biggest issues facing our state. The majority of Iowans surveyed think Iowa has major problems with:
Mental-health services (73 percent)
Child welfare (58 percent)
Student debt (60 percent)
University tuition (55 percent)
The state budget (51 percent)
Unfortunately, Republican cuts that passed the Iowa Senate on February 8 could hurt those priority areas even more. SF 2117 immediately slashes funding for critical services provided by the Department of Human Services, and significantly cuts our investment in community colleges and state universities. That will lead to more out-of-pocket expenses and fewer opportunities for working families.
I voted “no” on those deep, mid-year budget cuts because they do not reflect Iowa values and priorities. In this two-minute video, my Senate colleagues highlight the consequences of failing to use your hard-earned tax dollars on Iowa’s critical needs.
We must Put Iowans First and tackle the things you say matter most. If you haven’t had a chance to take our short survey, please share your thoughts on what will help you, your family and your community get ahead.
IOWANS WANT MENTAL HEALTH CARE IMPROVEMENTS
Iowa’s lack of mental health care is a leading worry for the majority of Iowans. The recent Iowa Poll shows that almost all of us believe there are problems with our state’s mental health care system.
New recommendations from a Complex Needs Workgroup will help address Iowa’s mental health concerns. The goal is to provide the right services at the right time to those struggling with severe, complex mental health or substance abuse needs.
A new bill (SF 2252) will begin the process of making the recommendations reality. I am hopeful that all legislators are ready to do what it takes—including providing adequate funding—to fix Iowans’ most pressing concern.
Maintaining intensive residential services for at least 120 Iowans.
Establishing six Access Centers at strategic locations throughout Iowa to provide immediate, short-term assessment and treatment to those who need significant support and services not available to them at home.
Adding more Assertive Community Treatment teams. ACTs provide individualized treatment to Iowans in their home and community. Team members are trained in psychiatry, social work, nursing, substance abuse treatment and vocational rehabilitation. Eyerly Ball has two facilities providing these services in Polk County, but the report recommends we add a third team to meet our needs in central Iowa.
The Iowa departments of Human Services and Public Health will work with the Courts to implement these and other recommendations. Court involvement is crucial because so much crime stems from mental illness and substance abuse.
4 CRITERIA FOR FISCAL FAIRNESS
Iowans want a tax system that is fair to everyone, not just the special interests. Because of the state’s cobbled together tax policies, many Iowans believe the system is rigged against them. Iowans deserve a tax system that works for all of us and increases prosperity.
At a time when the state budget is not balanced, we must approach tax changes carefully.
A tax plan proposed by Governor Reynolds has started a conversation at the Statehouse and across Iowa. Similar plans in Kansas and Oklahoma have been devastating for education, public safety, health care and other vital services. In fact, Kansas abandoned its failed trickle-down tax cuts, and Oklahoma’s Republican Governor is now proposing higher taxes to dig her state out of its fiscal mess.
Last June, Senator Pam Jochum of Dubuque, lead Democrat on the Senate’s tax policy committee, wrote a letter to the Governor offering to work together on a tax plan. Senator Jochum pledged to work in a bipartisan way on true tax reform that benefits Iowans by meeting these principles:
Tax reform must be fair - According to the Iowa Policy Project, when all state and local taxes are accounted for, Iowa’s lowest earners pay the largest portion of their income in taxes. We must not make the problem worse.
Tax reform must simplify the tax code - Iowa’s confusing collection of credits, deductions and exemptions makes our taxes look like some of the highest in the nation. What Iowans actually pay in taxes ranks us in the middle of the pack, according to the Tax Foundation. Simplifying Iowa taxes will highlight our competitiveness as an attractive place to live and do business.
Tax reform must fit our budget - State government has made big cuts to critical services that Iowans depend on. We must not repeat the mistakes of other states, where massive tax cuts have caused an ongoing crisis that has forced them to pay for necessities by stealing from road funding and raising other taxes.
Tax reform must examine corporate tax credits - Programs that help children, the elderly and vulnerable Iowans have seen cuts. Yet corporate tax credits remain the same. We must make sure tax credits give us a good return on investment and are in the best interest of Iowans—not just a few big, out-of-state, for-profit businesses. The Governor’s plan does not address corporate tax credits.
BETTER HEALTH CARE & ECONOMY WITH MEDICAID EXPANSION
Medicaid expansion has had a lot of success in helping Iowans live healthier lives, while also creating thousands of new jobs, according to a new report from the Iowa Fiscal Partnership.
Under the Affordable Care Act, expansion of Medicaid brought health coverage to an additional 150,000 low-income adults in Iowa. The move has brought our state an infusion of federal dollars ($730 million in 2015), has created more than 10,000 jobs and has contributed more than $500 million in annual income to Iowans.
The number of Iowa adults gaining health insurance through this expansion is expected to grow to 177,000 by 2019. The majority of them work at low-wage jobs without access to affordable health insurance. Medicaid expansion has been especially beneficial in our rural areas, where the percent of non-elderly residents who were uninsured was cut nearly in half between 2013 and 2015.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Summer jobs with the DOT
Through March 1, the Iowa Department of Transportation is accepting applications for summer help on a statewide traffic survey. Data collected will be used in roadway planning, engineering and maintenance decisions. For complete details and to apply, go to https://iowadotseasonaltemporary.ourcareerpages.com/job/297790
Grants to clean up nuisance properties
Through April 4, applications are being accepted for Derelict Building Grants. The Legislature created the program to help small, rural communities deconstruct or renovate abandoned commercial and public structures.
The program emphasizes reuse and recycling of building items, helps improve street appearance and commercial development, and alleviates the environmental concern these buildings can pose. Financial assistance includes asbestos removal, building deconstruction and renovation, and other environmental services.
For more information, visit the Iowa DNR’s Derelict Building Program page.
What do you think about Iowa history & culture?
The Department of Cultural Affairs is seeking public input on how well it’s meeting Iowa’s needs through the Arts Council, Historical Society and film production office. Provide your feedback in an anonymous survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/IDCA.
STEM & scholarship opportunity
Through March 26, Iowa high school students can register for the 2018 Iowa Youth Institute on April 30 at Iowa State University. During the day-long event, students will research agriculture issues and how we can meet the world’s food needs. Each student who submits a paper and attends the event will be recognized as a Borlaug Scholar and get a $500 scholarship to ISU’s College of Ag & Life Sciences. More information is available through the Iowa Food Prize.
This is a legislative update from State Senator Matt McCoy, representing the west part of Des Moines, portions of West Des Moines and northwest Warren County.
To contact Senator McCoy when the Legislature is in session, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise he can be reached at 515-274-0561. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senator McCoy is an Assistant Leader, as well as ranking member on the Transportation & Infrastructure Budget and the Government Oversight Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Commerce, Local Government and Ways & Means committees.