Reporter 3-2-13

October 8, 2014  |  By  | 


R 2 | Lyon County Reporter opinion March 6, 2013 School-choice options includ- ing private schools, open enroll- ment, charter schools, school- tuition organizations, and online education have been proving their value for many years. Lawmakers nationwide have recently ushered in an unprecedented era of school reform, in public charter schools, online schools, open-enrollment, and tuition scholarships. We must ensure that all children – whether rich or poor, urban or rural – have access to the schools that best match their unique needs. These reforms, for the rst time, truly em- power parents. Yet school options in Iowa continue to face sti resistance. Among the most stubborn oppo- nents of parents deciding where and how their children are edu- cated is organized labor, speci- cally the teachers and government unions. As a powerful, well-funded force these unions are engaged in a continuous battle to resist reform. Financed in Iowa by millions of dollars from teachers’ and govern- ment workers’ paychecks, the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employ- ees (AFSCME) unions contribute heavily to local and state election campaigns. Once elected, these of- cials decide how much money to pay the teachers and bureaucrats. The campaigns the unions contrib- ute to are nearly 100 percent Dem- ocrats. In return these Democrats do not support school choice. In- stead they advocate for the union’s positions – though the numbers of students continues to fall and student achievement remains stagnant. The individuals hired by the ocials then contribute to the unions from their paychecks. And round the money goes, from the taxpayers to the unions and back again. A large amount of the money received and spent by the Iowa Democrat Party in 2012 origi- nated with the ISEA, totaling over $600,000. If you go back to 2003, it totals over $1.5 million. Further, almost 100 percent of the ISEA political action committee dona- tions to individual candidates go to Democrats. From 2008 to 2012 this totaled over $500,000. In looking longer term, the total the teachers union poured into political cam- paigns – with money received from taxpayers, via their members – was over $2.3 million. AFSCME contributed almost $750,000 between 2008 and 2012 to either the Iowa Democrat Party or County Committees. Another $550,000 was donated directly to Representative or Senate cam- paigns – virtually all to Democrats. Going back to 2003, the total was almost $2 million. Again, this mon- ey was originally taxpayer dollars, being used to buy inuence with the very same Legislators who are responsible for collecting the mon- ey. Round and round the money goes. Given these nancial ties re- sponsible voters should be aware of the potential bias. Legislators are not unbiased decision makers. Responsible citizens (and journal- ists) should use this knowledge in evaluating school reform options. School district administra- tors are frequently cited in nega- tive school-choice articles. When thought of as CEOs of monopolies, their anti-competitive point of view is no surprise. The rst instinct of any defender of a monopoly is to attack a new entrant, not compete. Instead of improving their own of- ferings, school administrators at- tack their competitors. Again, fol- low the money. Students are valued for the tax dollars they bring to a school’s budget – the larger the budget, the larger the administrator’s salary and benets. School administra- tors have direct nancial interests in keeping students from enrolling in alternative schools. Unfortu- nately, these nancial ties exclude the children and parents. Working union members need to understand where their hard- earned money – paid in dues and donations – is going. They should know that nearly 100 percent of this money, hundreds of thousands of dollars every election, is going to only one political party – the Iowa Democrats. It is highly unlikely that 100 percent of these workers are registered Democrats. Union members must take a closer look at where their money goes and who it supports. Then they must stand up, focus on our children, and insist on changes. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better informed citizenry. Deborah D. Thornton, Research Analyst, Public Interest Institute This week both the House GOP and the Senate Demo- crats released their proposed budget plans for Fiscal Year 2014. The House Republican budget proposal provides a 3% increase in spending of the state General Fund. This is a modest, yet eective proposal. Due to drought conditions, slow economic growth, and the insecurity of the federal budget, there is a great deal of uncertainty about future revenue. The Republican proposal main- tains a scally responsible budget, while still provid- ing the necessary funding to protect priority services in the areas of education, health and human services, and public safety. The bud- get proposal also fully funds property tax credits for the rst time since FY 2002. For Fiscal Year 2014, the General Fund will be divided amongst the budget sub- committees in the following manner: Administration & Regu- lation - $55.1 million (in- crease of $2 million over FY 2013) Agriculture & Natural Resources - $36.4 million (increase of $1 million) Eco- nomic Development - $45.0 million (increase of $7.3 mil- lion) Education - $894.6 mil- lion (increase of $33.9 mil- lion) Health & Human Services - $1.699 billion (increase of $30.8 million) Justice Sys- tems & the Courts - $702.2 million (increase of $16.3 million) Standing Appro- priations - $2.982 billion (in- crease of 95.5 million) The proposed 3% in- crease spends 98% of on-go- ing revenue and 89.55% of overall available revenue, re- sulting in allowed spending of $6.4139 billion out of the $7.1822 billion in available revenue. This is a continua- tion of two years of Repub- lican responsibility, common sense spending, and plan- ning for the future economic success of our state. Senate Democrats also released their budget plan this week. Their spending proposal spends $487 mil- lion more than the House Republican plan. This is a nearly 11% increase in state General Fund spending from last year. This large increase spends 105% of the on-go- ing revenue. In other words, Senate Democrats are proposing to spend $1.05 for every one dollar of state revenue. This plan is not sustainable and sets the state up for future across the board budget cuts and economic struggles. House Republicans will con- tinue to work with the Senate to resolve the State’s budget but we will not compromise our principles by spending more than we take in. Next week is Funnel Week, which is the deadline for individually led bills. If the bills are not passed out of committee by the end of next week they will be dead for the session. Every year this deadline creates hectic schedules and constant sub- committee meetings, and this week was no exception. If you have any questions or concerns about any bill in particular please contact me. I’d like to end my news- letter by congratulating the girls’ basketball teams from Central Lyon for their ap- pearances at the State Tour- nament this week! Jim Hensley ...................Chief Operating Officer Lisa Miller ...................................General Manager Kristin Snell ..........................................News Editor Jodie Hoogendoorn .................Associate Editor Jeff Benson ........................................Sports Editor Lois Kuehl .............................Adv. Representative Kari Jurrens ........................Advertising Assistant Daniel Wendland ...............Business Office Mgr. Marilyn Ahrendt .....................Business Assistant Shaun Kats ........................................Graphic Artist Melissa deBoer ................................Graphic Artist Megan Punt ......................................Graphic Artist Mary Clausen .......................Circ./Office Services Published weekly at 310 First Avenue, Rock Rapids, Iowa 51246. 712-472-2525 (USPS 323-300) Copyright 2011 Lyon County Reporter, a New Century Press Newspaper Periodicals postage paid at Rock Rapids. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Lyon County Reporter, P.O. Box 28, Rock Rapids, IA 51246 Member: Iowa Newspaper Association and National Newspaper Association State budget begins to take shape Grins is the all the businesses that sponsored the fans’ busses to Des- Moines. Grins to the number of people who traveled to Des Moines to cheer on the Lady Lions. Glares to all the cigarette butts all over the sidewalk outside the bar. Budget targets Unions, administrators, and school choice LYON COUNTY Pick a number, any number. This week the state budget for next scal year started to come into focus when Democrats who control the Senate and Republicans who hold the House released their bud- get “targets.” Targets refer to spend- ing plans for every area of state gov- ernment. The governor outlined his budget plan earlier in the session. Here’s the scorecard so far: Gov. Branstad supports a spending in- crease of about 5 percent over the current budget, or more than $6.5 billion. But that does not include supplemental school funding --- also called allowable growth. On the low end, House Republicans say total spending should be $6.4 billion, or 3 percent more. On the high end are Senate Democrats, who propose spending 11 percent more, or nearly $6.9 billion. There’s a $484 million gap be- tween the House and the Senate. Someone suggested today that the two parties are not far apart. I beg to dier: $484 million isn’t chump change. And consider this: Senate Democrats are proposing to spend $671 million more than the current scal year budget. That’s real money. Each budget proposal represents the big picture. Beginning now and for weeks to come, individual bud- get subcommittees will go line by line, funding request by funding re- quest, in working out a nal budget plan to be voted on by both legisla- tive chambers. The subcommittees are Administration and Regulation; Agriculture and Natural Resources; Economic Development; Education; Health and Human Services; Justice System; and Transportation, Infra- structure and Capitals. I am serving my 15th year on the Health and Human Services Bud- get Subcommittee. We will address Medicaid for lower-income families, children, the elderly and individuals; mental health; public health; ser- vices for older Iowans; and the Iowa Veterans Home. My priorities include protecting funding for programs for people with disabilities. More on the state budget: Some legislators believe signicantly in- creased government spending will expand the middle class. And they think even more government spend- ing will magically “grow the econo- my.” Experience tells us otherwise. Just four years ago state lawmak- ers not only spent more than tax rev- enues collected, but some $1 billion was borrowed to cre- ate higher-paying jobs. It worked, all right. Unemployment increased, the state faced a $1 billion shortfall, more Iowans --- especially children --- were in poverty and tough bud- get decisions had to be made by a new administration. Those spending restraints the past two years have paid o in lower unemployment, gains in personal in- come, emergency and cash-ow ac- counts full, and a state treasury with a strong ending balance. So strong, in fact, that an argument can be made that Iowans have been over- taxed. The House and Senate spend- ing plans both increase funding for education. The House proposal, however, is more specic than the Senate plan. For example, the House provides a $16 million increase for the Regents universities; ensures a tuition-freeze at Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa; and adds $120 million more for community col- leges. Among other items, restoring a cut in lake restoration funding is on my watch list. All this, of course, will be negoti- ated between the parties. And the governor has the veto pen in hand. A nal note on the budget: In 1999, my rst year in the Legislature, the scal year budget was $4.5 bil- lion. Northwest Iowa was well repre- sented at the state girls basketball tournament this week. Ditto for next week, when the boys teams travel to Des Moines. Hats o to the play- ers, coaches, parents and fans. As we “hayseeds” say across the fence, you done us proud. Public forums: Other northwest Iowa legislators and I will be at the following forums where you can hear updates, ask questions and give comments on legislation: Saturday, March 30, 8 a.m. --- Eggs and Issues, Forster Community Center, Rock Rapids. Your questions and comments are always welcome. You can reach me in the Iowa Senate by calling (515) 281-3371 and leaving a mes- sage; or by e-mail at david.johnson@ legis.iowa.gov Grins And Glares In the Public Interest At the Capitol The Johnson Report David Johnson IA S TATE S ENATOR Jeff Smith IA. R EP D IST . 4