Now that we have a new state budget in place that was balanced in a cuts-only approach, we at least can finally all agree that state spending in Iowa is down.
Even before the new budget was passed, the general fund budget was smaller in relation to the Iowa economy than it was when Gov. Terry Branstad was last in office in 1998.
In other words, state spending has not kept pace with the growth in wages and business profits over the past dozen years. This shifts costs to Iowa citizens.
One example is in the Regents universities. In the just-ended fiscal year, the state provided fewer dollars to the University of Iowa than it did in 1998. By not adjusting state funds for inflation, tuitions have been forced higher: 227 percent up since 1998, from $1,333 per semester to $4,357.
In Iowa, budget rhetoric is what’s been out of control. Politicians have manufactured a crisis, when we need budget discussions to be based on logic and facts, not scare tactics.
When we do that, we can see that Iowa can afford to provide preschool for every Iowa 4-year-old, because we know it improves education and economic opportunity across the board. We can hold down the rapid increases in tuition at Kirkwood and the University of Iowa. We can mow the grass in our parks, improve the low salaries of our teachers and nurses, and do much more while keeping spending at or below 1990s levels.
What we can afford to cut are the perks for the profitable. Tax cuts for big corporations that already avoid their fair share of the bill cannot be sustained if we want to provide and maintain superior state services that attract residents and a productive workforce — which, by the way, is how companies make money.
Let’s put the old budget rhetoric on the shelf and invest in Iowans as we once did, for a dynamic economy and services in line with Iowa values.
Posted by David Osterberg, Executive Director