By Dean Lerner
Gov. Branstad and his Republican colleagues have all kinds of ideas for spending the surplus in the state treasury. They act as if, during his first two years in office, the governor’s fiscal policies and their control of the Iowa House created this surplus. Not true.
Gov. Chet Culver and his administration left this surplus, created in the midst of the most severe economic recession since the Great Depression, at nearly the same level that exists today. Iowa was deemed one of the best-managed states largely because of it.
Now Branstad wants to use this surplus to help pay for commercial property tax relief. Informed studies contradict our governor’s claims of overtaxation, as well as his promised consequences of such tax relief.
Other investments would have a far greater positive impact on Iowa’s vibrancy and economy, such as investing in our infrastructure and cleaning our water and air. Consider, too, the historic impact of Medicaid expansion and the everlasting beneficial health effects on our children and families — all of which will be sacrificed due to the governor’s opposition. Moreover, Branstad’s tax relief plan fails to distinguish between helping Iowa’s Main Street businesses, the backbone of our state and the Big Box stores.
Branstad shows his true colors with the largest tax giveaways Iowa has ever seen, enticing two giant fertilizer plants, with minor jobs impact, at an obscene taxpayer cost per job.
Republican members of the House and Senate prefer refunding around $300 per taxpayer in 2014 as a way to spend the surplus — without any differentiation made between those who need it most and those blessed with more than enough. Wisely investing in Iowa’s future will produce a much greater return than pandering with tax refunds.
While no one disputes the surplus is taxpayer money, Iowans should at least be reminded of the sacrifices their state employee neighbors made to assist in Iowa’s recovery and help create the surplus. During the Culver administration, state employees sacrificed negotiated salaries and benefits that made a difference in the retirement benefits they will receive. Contrasted with Branstad’s salary bonuses granted to some of his department heads, Culver and his directors gave 10 percent of their salaries back.
As Branstad negotiates with state employees this time, he should be reminded that all state workers who dedicate their public service efforts to our well-being deserve far more recognition than corporate cronies ready to fund political campaigns.
Dean Lerner of Des Moines served as director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals from 2007 until 2012, when Gov. Terry Branstad replaced him. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org