Inside the Iowa House
At the ripe old age of 26, I returned to Osceola, to be the Director of the Clarke County Office of the Iowa Department of Human Services. My office was down the hall from the offices of the treasurer, auditor, and recorder. After I left that position, Governor Kim Reynolds became Clarke County Treasurer, a job that she held for sixteen years. We have many friends and acquaintances in common having both spent a good deal of our lives in Clarke County.
I wish her well in serving as Iowa's Governor during the remainder of Governor Branstad's term. I also wish him well in his new position of being Ambassador to the most populated country in the world and one of our most important trading partners.
I went to the transition ceremony last week and heard Governor Reynolds outline her top priorities in her first speech as Governor. As the new Governor, she has a unique opportunity this summer to rise above politics and break out from the over-sized shadows of both Trump and Branstad.
Reynolds said her top priority was reforming Iowa's tax structure to make it more "fair." While I agree it should be fair, the path of the Iowa GOP today is massive corporate tax giveaways that have already led to a slowing state economy and a state budget deficit. One direct result of the giveaways has been higher tuition for students at community colleges and state universities next year as well as higher property taxes for homeowners.
At the national level, Trump and the GOP are headed in the same direction. Massive tax breaks that reward corporations and the wealthy, while everyone else gets stuck with the bill.
Can Reynolds break out from the shadows of Branstad and Trump to make our tax system fair for Iowans, not just corporations and the wealthy?
Education was also mentioned as a key priority of Governor Reynolds saying she wants to "ensure our best teachers stay in the classroom." A laudable goal for sure, but the Trump/Branstad/GOP plan is doing the exact opposite right now.
Teachers and our public schools face immense challenges today. It's largely driven by the state's anemic investment in public schools because seven of the last eight years have been the worst in Iowa history. Last session, the GOP blamed teachers for our schools budget woes and even took away a teacher's right to have a voice in her own workplace.
Next up in education for Trump and GOP lawmakers are school vouchers. The new scheme shifts hundreds of millions from public schools to private schools/homeschools instead. There's no question it would have devastating consequences for our public schools, especially in rural areas.
While Reynolds didn't mention it in her first speech, I hope her silence doesn't signal she's complicit in getting it done next year.
Will Reynolds step up and come out from the shadows of Trump and Branstad to stop the voucher scheme next session?
Reynolds said another goal is skills training for the jobs of the future. We agree Iowa needs a highly skilled workforce, but the Trump/Branstad plan to raise tuition at community colleges and state universities runs directly against that effort. It also leaves too many students leaving the state to find a higher paying job that pays off their student loans faster.
Will Reynolds step out from the shadows of Trump and Branstad to stop tuition increases that prevent many from getting the skills they need to land a good job?
Democrats are ready to work with Gov. Reynolds to make progress on our shared priorities. We need to invest in our public schools and keep tuition affordable to grow our skilled workforce. We need to make sure our tax system is fair for all Iowans, not just corporations. We also need to work together to raise wages, keep healthcare affordable, and improve our water quality.
I hope Governor Reynolds is ready to break out from the over-sized shadows of Trump and Branstad by abandoning their failed policies. It's time to work together and do what's right for the people of Iowa again.