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Governor Asks Legislators to Cut Taxes, Get Iowans Back to Work

Monday, January 17, 2022

The Governor and legislators do not always agree, even when they are from the same political party.  In fact, they usually do not.  The Governor must advocate for her issues with the Legislature, just like the Iowa DD Council or other organizations.  She has a lobbyist to help her do that, and the Iowa DD Council has a public policy manager to make sure their priorities are discussed.  Each year, the Governor presents her ideas to the Iowa Legislature in what is called a "Condition of the State" speech.  She hopes that they will act on those recommendations, but it's ultimately up to the legislators to make the final decision.  This year, it is looking like there is more agreement than disagreement between the Governor and Legislature.

Governor Kim Reynolds gave her "Condition of the State" speech on Tuesday, January 11.   You can watch it here.  The Governor had three key asks for the Legislature:

  • Cut taxes and allow Iowans to keep more of their hard earned money.
  • Get Iowans back to work and find ways to fix Iowa's worker shortage.
  • Trust Iowans to make the right choices, what she called "getting government out of the way."

Those issues are in line with what legislative leaders say they want to do as well.  Here are a few things the Governor asked legislators to do:

  • Cut income taxes by more than $1.5 billion (average savings to an Iowa family is $1,300).
  • End taxes on retirement income.
  • Give all childcare workers, teachers, prison staff, and police officers a $1,000 bonus.
  • Make childcare more affordable and available to working Iowans.
  • Cut unemployment benefits to get people back to work (shortening it by 10 weeks - to 16 weeks of benefits; delaying the start of benefits by a week; and requiring more job applications per week).
  • Increase school funding by 2.5% (that's almost $118 million more for public schools).
  • Allow students to get private special education services without first getting the approval of the Area Education Agency (AEA).
  • Give parents of children on an IEP (individualized education plan) the opportunity to use state funds that would have gone to schools to send their child to a private school.
  • Give parents whose family income is less than 400% of the federal poverty level ($106,000 for a family of four) the same opportunity to pay for private school.
  • Increase funding for the Office of Public Guardian to clear waiting lists for guardianship servicres to individuals who do not otherwise have someone to take on this responsibility.
  • Invest in workforce programs - $3 million more for health care worker tuition programs, $200,000 for two new psychiatric residencies, and a new "Health Careers Registered Apprenticeship Program" that starts kids in high school on a path to a career in healthcare.

The Governor also added $71.2 million to to finish taking over funding for the regional mental health and disability services (MH/DS) system. That’s a total of $121.2 million, and is the amount promised last year when the state stopped using county property taxes to pay for these services.  No funds were added to the regional MH/DS Incentive Fund (but the law doesn’t restart the funding for that until 2025). No regions applied for incentive funds this year because of the extra federal dollars in the system, so regions do not seem to be worried about this right now. The Governor did not make any changes to Medicaid; there is enough federal money coming into the state to keep the state from having to increase state funding this year.  While the Governor did not set out a plan to address Iowa's problem with over-institutionalizing people (that is, not giving people enough options to live in smaller, community-based settings), we have heard that DHS is working on a plan that will require alot of new money. 

WORKFORCE: Many Iowans with disabilities have had their services cut because there are simply no staff to provide them, and that is exactly what the Governor and legislators say they need to fix.  The problem is, they don't know how to fix it, and they may not agree on the solution.  If you want to make sure the solution works for you, talk to your legislators about the types of services you receive, the problems you have when staff are not there, and how that changes your life.  If you cannot go to work because you don't have staff to help you get ready each day, that means another job goes unfilled in the community.  It just makes the worker shortage even worse.

DIRECT SUPPORT STAFF: Giving police officers, child care workers, and teachers $1,000 bonuses sounds like a good idea, but some are asking why the Governor did not include those that provide direct supports to people with disabilities and older Iowans, like direct support professionals, certified nurse aids, and nurses.  That may be a question you ask your legislators, or ask to include them in these bonuses.

HOME & COMMUNITY BASED SERVICES:  The Governor did not include a plan to eliminate home and community based service waiting lists, so if you are someone that is waiting for services and may be on that list for years, now is the time to talk to your legislators. They CAN add money to eliminate waiting lists, even if it was not on the Governor's to-do list.  You might want to talk about what you could do if you had these services.  Could you work?  Go back to school? Enjoy the things your community has to offer?   

COMMUNITY CHOICES: The Governor talked a lot about trusting Iowans to make good choices.  The Governor did not talk about choice when it comes to Iowans who want options for living and working in their community (instead of an institution).  Even though it didn’t come up in the Governor’s speech, there will be a lot of talk about what Iowa can do to address the things that came out in the recent US Department of Justice report that found Iowa in violation of the ADA for not giving people with disabilities a choice to live in the community. You can talk to your legislators about trusting Iowans with disabilities to make good choices for themselves as well.  Iowa needs more HCBS options, and that means funding them.  Right now more than 17,000 Iowans are on HCBS waiver waiting lists; adding the money it takes to end waiting lists is a good place to start.

SCHOOL CHOICES: If you are a parent of a child receiving special education services, the Governor's plan to allow private instruction without AEA approval may give you more choices.  Those choices would become more affordable if you are able to use some of the state education funding for your child's private school tuition.  It may also concern you, as money moves from public schools to private schools, will your school be able to afford high-quality educational services for your child?  You may want to talk about these idea - or raise these questions - with your legislators.

GUARDIANSHIP:  Not all Iowans with disabilities have a family member or friend ho can act as their guardian, conservator, personal representative, or representative payee. That's why Iowa has an Office of the Public Guardian, who can take on this responsibility for the person. Last year, the office served 80 people, but 82 others were on the waiting list for this service. The Governor wants to end this waiting list. 

TAX CUTS: While everyone wants more money in their paychecks, the income tax cut proposed could make it tough for Iowa to fund its Medicaid services and put more money into home and community based service options.  If the state loses $1.5 billion per year, how can the state make the changes needed to do this?  Talk to your legislators about what this will mean and how they will make sure the services Iowans need are not lost.

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