When elected officials make decisions about spending public dollars, they reveal their priorities and values. Gov. Branstad recently completed action on the new state budget by issuing a flurry of item-vetoes. In doing so, he revealed what his true priorities include and do not include.
The state of Iowa has a large cash surplus. The state has been so flush with cash that the governor has proudly touted tax cuts for large, out-of-state corporations like Wal-Mart. Furthermore, he has awarded massive incentives for corporations that will create few permanent jobs. For instance, the Egyptian company Orascom was awarded $250 million in state and local incentives to build a fertilizer plant in Lee County that will create only 165 permanent jobs. These incentives were in addition to a $300 million benefit from federal Midwest Disaster Area bonds that Orascom would not have been eligible for at any proposed sites outside of Iowa.
In contrast, the governor used his item-veto pen to slash $13 million in mental health funding. This funding, which was supported on a bipartisan basis, was intended to help Iowa's most vulnerable and to protect our communities. Without these funds counties will need to cut mental health services as Iowa transitions to a new regional system and many Iowans will not be able to obtain much needed services. On top of his item-veto slashing mental health funding, Gov. Branstad also vetoed $8.7 million in services to Iowans with disabilities. The governor's values do not match the values of Iowans. Iowans believe in caring for the most vulnerable and protecting our communities from harm.
The basic functions of government include ensuring public safety and having fair and accessible courts. In order to do this, the state of Iowa must support those who provide these services. In his recent set of item-vetoes, Gov. Branstad vetoed funding that would have helped the state meet its commitments to the Peace Officers' Retirement Fund and Judicial Retirement Fund. These fiscally responsible investments, which were supported by Democrats and Republicans, were deemed by the governor to be less of a priority than massive giveaways to corporations like Orascom. The governor's actions likely signal his intention to attack the retirement security of all public employees, including employees covered by the larger IPERS system.
The governor's actions have made it crystal clear where his priorities lie. Iowans should keep this in mind as they evaluate his job performance.
Danny Homan is president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61, which represents over 40,000 public employees in Iowa.