Local legislators have differing views of Branstad’s address
BY BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
It shouldn’t be surprising that Mt. Pleasant’s two state legislators had differing views Tuesday of Gov. Terry Branstad’s final Condition of the State address to a joint session of the Iowa Legislature.
“This one (address) was significant,” said State Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mt. Pleasant. “This was good bye.”
Meanwhile, State Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mt. Pleasant, claimed Branstad talked out of both sides of his mouth.
“It was quite an exciting day,” Taylor said with tongue planted firmly in cheek. “We have to make adjustments in fiscal 2017. Branstad and Reynolds (Lt. Gov. Kim) have us in a budget crisis. But yet, he said during his address that Iowa, unlike other states, lives within its means.”
Taylor said he learned after the speech that the state is somewhere between $113 million and $149 million in the red. “We might have to dip into our rainy day fund or cut some programs,” he said.
Heaton said he was aware of a $110 million budget shortfall. “That is why we are in the process of analyzing a de-appropriations bill. The longer we wait (on the bill), the higher the price tag will be.”
The governor proposed 2-percent supplemental state aid (formerly allowable growth) to state K-12 school districts in both of the next two fiscal years.
Heaton said he doesn’t like appropriating money that might not be there.
“He proposed $78.5 million in new money to schools, which is 2 percent allowable growth,” Heaton remarked. “He proposed 2 percent for each of the next two fiscal years, but I don’t know if it is fiscally responsible to appropriate money we may not have.”
The governor’s math on education didn’t add up, Taylor said. “He proposed 2-percent supplemental state aid and said that would cost $78.5 million in fiscal 2018 and $63.5 million in fiscal 2019. With that much of a difference, it can’t be 2 percent for both years. It looks like he is misleading the people.”
Both Taylor and Heaton said the legislature would have a school-funding bill to the governor in 30 days.
Branstad said he wanted to start a water quality control program that passed the House last year but not the Senate. The bill calls for an expenditure of $65 million, which would come from gambling funds, the state’s general fund and a one-cent tax on commercial and residential water bills. “That made me happy,” Heaton said.
A statewide health-insurance plan for all public employees (those employees currently covered by IPERS) was proposed by the governor. Part of the premium would be paid by the state and the remainder by the insurance recipient, Taylor said.
Heaton said Branstad also expressed concern over the rise in deaths on Iowa highways. “He thinks a lot of it is because of distracted drivers and he wants a bill on distracted drivers, but I don’t know any of the details.”
In other tidbits from the governor’s speech, he stated he wanted to cut funding to any organization that provides abortions, Taylor noted. The governor also said there would be no furloughs for state employees or cuts to Medicaid.
Heaton said Branstad touted some of his achievements — employment is down to 3.8 percent, a teacher leadership program is entering its third year and STEM education is flourishing in state K-12 school districts. “He said we have good economic activity in the state and are doing some unique things with wind energy, biofuels and renewable energy,” the state representative reflected.
Taylor was not nearly as impressed. “You had to really listen intently to what he was saying. There were a lot of positives in his message on negative subjects.”