DES MOINES | A group of Iowa community and human service organizations on Thursday called on state lawmakers to use surplus dollars to restore funding for public services rather than focusing on tax cuts.
“We feel that talk about more cuts is misguided,” said Adam Mason, state policy organizing director for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a social justice organization based in Des Moines.
The group is a member of Coalition for a Better Iowa, a collection of nonprofits and advocacy organizations representing children, seniors, faith, labor and environmental interests. They’re working together to urge elected leaders to invest in all Iowans, not just in tax breaks for big corporations.
Sue Dinsdale, executive director of Iowa Citizens Action Network, a Des Moines grassroots public interest group, said business owners realize a balanced approach is required to provide the educated workforce, cultural amenities, infrastructure, health care and public safety that enable economic well-being in communiities.
“When businesses thrive, it’s because of the overall strength of the state,” she said. “Cutting revenue is not the answer. Strengthening communities is the key and this is accomplished by maintaining adequate programs such as education, health care and public safety.”
Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, said the governor has worked for two years to restore stability and predictability to a state government financial house that was beset with a $900 million structural deficit when he took office in January 2011. He said the governor is committed to maintaining fiscal responsibility while addressing high commercial property and corporate income tax rates that are impediments to Iowa’s future economic growth.
Albrecht said the state’s current surplus position exists “because taxpayers send a check to government month after month. We believe the prosperity should be shared with them. We need to look at that surplus and insure that we don’t spend every single dollar and get ourselves into the same predicament we were in three years ago this month when (former Gov. Chet) Culver was forced to enact a 10 percent across-the-board cut.”
State government ended fiscal 2012 last June an estimated record of $595.5 million in the cash reserve and economic emergency accounts. Another $60 million was deposited in a newly created taxpayers trust account and projections called for an ending balance topping $320 million.
Mason said significant cuts were made after the recession hit that “weakened overall investments in people” such as reductions to K-12 schools, community colleges and state universities. He said 40,000 children in Iowa still are not covered by health insurance and many jobs were eliminated in public safety and essential services that need to be restored now that the state’s economic position has improved.
“We must now make strategic reinvestments in the very systems that make Iowa a great place to live and an attractive place for business to grow,” he said at a Statehouse news conference.
Mason called for a review of all state tax breaks and subsidies so incentives that are identified as ineffective can be eliminated and the funding redirected for other purposes.
Coalition for a Better Iowa membersAFSCME IowaChild and Family Policy CenterCommunications Workers of America, Iowa State CouncilEvery Child CountsEvery Child Matters in IowaInterfaith Alliance of IowaIowa Alliance for Retired AmericansIowa Association for the Education of Young ChildrenIowa Citizen Action NetworkIowa Citizens for Community ImprovementIowa Community Action AssociationIowa Environmental CouncilIowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIOIowa Policy ProjectIowa Public Health AssociationIowa State Education AssociationLinn County Child Development CenterNational Association of Social Workers, Iowa ChapterOne IowaPlanned Parenthood of the HeartlandProgress IowaRESULTSService Employees International Union, Local 199Visiting Nurse Services of IowaWomen for Change