Archive for May 5, 2012
The legislative session is going longer than scheduled. I hope it will wrap up soon, but we won’t gavel out until Iowa has a balanced state budget that keeps our commitments to students, working families and local communities on education, job creation and economic growth.
While it is true that some legislative Republicans have floated the idea of just giving up and going home, rest assured, that won’t happen.
A recent Sioux City Journal editorial stated: “Voters sent representatives and senators (Republicans and Democrats) to Des Moines to do a job. Arguably, the most important job for our legislators is passage of a budget (a budget for the full fiscal year) before they gavel their session to a close. Iowans expect nothing less.”
I agree 100 percent! That’s why I will continue to make the case for investing in Iowa’s future while being fiscally responsible. Our state’s economy has rebounded from the national recession stronger and quicker than most states. The state budget is in good shape, thanks to sound bipartisan management.
Here are some budget facts. The state of Iowa is expected to have a budget surplus of about $258 million on June 30, the end of the current budget year. In addition, we have $617.1 million in our reserve funds, the largest amount in state history. On top of that, we’re putting an additional $60 million into the newly created Taxpayer Trust Fund.
In short, there is no reason for any legislator to give up and go home without making the tough decisions they were sent to the Statehouse to make.
Just a few things on our 2012 to-do list
As we near adjournment of the 2012 session, there are a handful of important issues to be resolved. They include:
• An increase in our state’s investment in education at the local level, at our community colleges and at our state universities. The Senate blocked Republican demands to close preschools, eliminate support for smaller class sizes and extra help for kids learning to read, cut community college funding and force more of the cost of college onto the backs of families.
• A significant cut in commercial property taxes that reduces taxes on every commercial property in Iowa. We need to help small businesses the most and does not shift taxes onto residential property.
• A tax cut for working families—one that will also help local businesses when families purchase milk, gas and school clothes, make car repairs and pay bills.
What else still needs to be done?
Legislation that will help create jobs and strengthen our economy tops my list. Many ideas passed the Senate with bipartisan support but weren’t taken up in the House. These ideas—developed by working closely with local business and community leaders—need to be given another look:
• Giving Iowa’s community colleges more tools to help fix our state’s shortage of skilled workers.
• Intensifying efforts to make sure state and local tax dollars buy American and buy Iowan.
• Reducing costs for 60,000 Iowa small businesses with a state tax credit on employee health insurance costs.
• Providing consumer rebates to create jobs on solar and wind projects at residences and businesses.
How are we improving Iowa education?
When it comes to education, three key issues are still being worked out.
The first is education reform. This session, we’re building on Iowa’s tradition of excellent local schools by working to raise academic standards, increase the effectiveness of educators, and provide for innovations that enhance learning. Senate File 2284 was developed with the help of parents, teachers and students, as well as state and national experts.
While differences in the House and Senate approaches to education reform remain, we’re working to find common ground on:
• Establishing annual teacher and administrator evaluations
• Expanding the educational standards and key concepts students should know
• Competency-based education that allows students to learn at their own pace and advance quickly in subjects they enjoy
• Creating higher requirements for students entering the teaching profession
• Helping principals put more focus on improving teaching rather than non-educational administrative duties
Second, basic state funding for local school districts must be reliable and adequate to meet needs. In the Senate, we’ve approved a 4 percent increase in basic state support for local schools for the 2013-2014 school year. These dollars are used for textbooks, heating bills, technology and other necessities so that students, teachers and schools can be successful.
Iowans expect and want great local schools. The state budget has recovered and it’s time to help our schools do the same. Unfortunately, the House is again insisting on no new funding for local students.
Third, we must ensure that all Iowa students are good readers by third grade. This is a centerpiece of the Governor’s reform proposal that I wholeheartedly support. Class size affects student success, especially when children are learning to read.
We need to continue efforts to limit class sizes for kindergarten through third-graders by extending Iowa’s Early Intervention Block Grant Program—more commonly known as the “class size reduction” program—so that students get the one-on-one attention they need to get a good start in school.
New alert system protects victims of domestic violence
New alerts from the Iowa Attorney General’s office will ensure that victims of abuse are better informed about protective orders against their abusers.
In Iowa, victims of abuse must request that the court issue a “no contact” order to legally prevent an abuser from approaching them. A “no contact” order is not enforceable until the abuser is served with the order.
The new Iowa Protective Order Notification for Domestic Abuse Program (IPONDA) will provide near real-time, around-the-clock notifications by telephone or e-mail. Registered victims will know if a “no contact” order has been served or if a “no contact” order is about to expire.
The alert system is paid for through a grant from the Federal Department of Justice. Those who wish to register for notifications should call 1-888-742-8463 or go to www.registervpo.com.
Support for our emergency workers
Iowa has 20,000 firefighters organized in 871 fire departments. Each year, these men and women respond to more than 40,000 emergency calls.
To help them get the training they need, we’re working to create a shared facility to support the training of Iowa’s firefighters, law enforcement and emergency medical responders. By pooling local, state and federal funds, we can develop a high-quality, efficient center. Given Iowa’s tradition of national leadership in fire service training and safety education, this project makes perfect sense.
Every Iowan will likely receive help from our volunteer emergency workers at some point in their lives. As a small token of appreciation, the Legislature approved and the Governor signed a “thank-you” to volunteer firefighters and EMTs.
Starting next year, they’ll get a $50 state tax credit on their personal tax returns. It’s the first time that the state has recognized the financial contribution of our volunteer emergency workers, who also donate their time and sometimes risk their lives.
Please be sure to thank your local firefighters and emergency medical responders the next time you see them.
Teacher Appreciation Week, May 7-11
May 7-11 is Iowa’s annual Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to thank teachers for their hard work. On May 8—Teacher Appreciation Day—school children can show appreciation for their teachers by sharing kind words, a special card or a small gift. During the week, students may also get the chance to learn more about the daily routine of their teachers and what kind of work goes into teaching and education.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
I just heard a Mitt Romney introduction by Marco Rubio in which Rubio stated that Romney was responsible for creating over 100,000 jobs. He then stated that this was so much better than the current president. For some strange reason I almost jerked my head off. The obvious reason is that Rubio’s statement was nothing more than a lie. But the second reason is that you could tell by the cheer that there was a room full of folks who believed it, or at least wanted it to be true. That room represents nearly 40% of the country who simply choose not to believe facts anymore. Apparently the death of facts coincided with the birth of Fox “News.”
There has always been some things which were in dispute, but with the advent of Fox, there is little that doesn’t seem to be in dispute. With the power of television with its glitz and patina of authority, Fox in particular and other networks to a lesser degree, has been able to twist the public’s trust of news organizations and use that to plant flat out lies as facts.
In the above statement there are several flaws, yet an adoring public is ready to believe anything and They have their own set of “facts” to prove what they believe. Romney created 100,000 jobs? Sure because Staples did well after Bain stripped them. Of course that ignores the millions of good American jobs lost in other Bain restructurings where the object business either subsequently failed or operations were moved overseas. And then let’s look a little further into Romney’s record as Governor of Massachusetts. Really bad job creation record. 47th out of 50 with numbers being in the 4 to 5 digit range.
Is Romney’s magnificent(?) record of 100,000 jobs created much better than Obama’s? Well, there have been about 4,000,000 jobs created in the past three and a half years. Sadly that pace does not quite keep up with what is needed just to bring new workers into the workforce. But things rolling in the right direction. Most analysts agree that were it not for Republican obstruction, we could be having a decent recovery.
One other piece that is missing is the mess that Obama inherited from Bush. The country was hemorrhaging jobs with little relief in sight. Bush had inherited a country that was in pretty good shape economically. While the country won’t quite in that good of shape in January of 2013 as it was in January of 2001, the trends will be right. Based on Romney’s statements we could easily see a repeat of the Bush presidency. No wonder Republicans try to pretend Bush never existed.
And that is one of the realities that Republicans refuse to believe. They believe that Bush was a great president, ambushed by Clinton’s policies. Other myths include Bin Laden’s death being due to policies that were set in place by the Bush administration.
But the big problem is that the belief in alternative “facts” or as better stated lies is that there interjection into public policy is hurting and killing citizens. Doctors do not treat a patient for what they think the cause of an illness may be. They do tests to determine the true cause of an illness and then treat it with an accepted course of treatment. But in the policy arena, Republicans refuse to accept facts as discovered and instead postulate theories based on little more than the opinion of their own think tanks. Then they apply solutions that sound good late at night over cocktails.
Thus we have denial of global climate change despite overwhelming evidence, denial of full citizenship for women, application of austerity measures in the face of recession versus the proven Keynesian solutions. On and on it goes. Facts aren’t true, but the fantasies made up by Fox become their facts. When finally confronted with facts that must be faced the response is usually some half baked notion of a college sophomore.
But one thing is for sure, every false fact, every half-baked solution somehow takes money from the poor and middle class and moves that money into the hands of the corporations to whom the Republican Party is wholly owned subsidiary.
When I say “a wholly owned subsidiary” I mean that a Republican president will not make a move without the blessing of those who own he and the party. About nine months ago I wrote an entry on the true power structure in the Republican party.
This was an observation by me, but I think with a little tinkering it reflects the reality of the Republican Party both at a state and nationallevel. Right now Mitt Romney must be realizing that he has crossed from the true power structure into the world of being a puppet when he was forced to let his foreign policy adviser (Richard Grenel) go because he was not “acceptable” (he is openly gay) to the powers that be in his Party.
Alternate reality, run by the rich, hateful and distrustful of government. These traits of the GOP make for some terrible leadership at all levels.It is easy to provide examples. What is a mystery is why anyone would vote for them. Especially that in so doing, they vote against their own best interests.