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Political group tells Branstad how to spend state’s surplus

DES MOINES – The Coalition for A Better Iowa, a broad coalition of Iowa organizations representing children, seniors, faith, human service providers, research, advocates, labor and environmental organizations, today told Governor Branstad and state elected officials that with over $1 billion in a budget surplus, Iowa must make strategic reinvestments in the very systems that make Iowa a good place to live and an attractive place for businesses to grow.

Speakers at the press conference included Lieutenant Andy Kossoff of the Des Moines Fire Department and IAFF Local 4.  Kossoff said, “It’s hard to hear about state budget surpluses when cities are being forced to make cut after cut everywhere, including in public safety.”

“Budget cuts have taken many positions away from the local fire department and taken several rigs out of service which makes public safety harder to provide,” Kossoff continued. “Citizens and businesses are paying for, and they expect and deserve, the best in public safety.”

Michelle Bartusek, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Program Coordinator with Iowans for Social and Economic Development gave several examples of how increasing the EITC for Iowa’s working families would not only help individuals, but put money back into the local economy.

Sue Dinsdale, Executive Director of Iowa Citizen Action Network and organizer of the Main Street Alliance – a coalition of nearly 700 small businesses around Iowa commented, “Our small business owners agree that we need a balanced approach to addressing Iowa’s economic situation. A balanced approach is a better alternative than relying so heavily on spending cuts that we fail to meet people’s current needs and fail to invest in the economy Iowa wants and needs for the future.”

Dinsdale continued, “The Governor needs to take the lead in protecting vital public services and recognizing our state’s strengths and weaknesses.  Cutting revenue is not the answer. Strengthening communities is the key.  When businesses thrive it is because of the overall strength of a state including a well-educated, healthy work force, a social and cultural climate that is appealing and, most importantly, customers who can afford to buy their product or use their services.”

The Coalition issued the following statement at Thursday’s press conference:

The recession has had a major impact upon Iowa and on state government. We have had across-the-board cuts to essential services as overall state investments in education – about sixty percent of the state budget – have been cut back.  This impacts our schools, community colleges, and universities and has weakened overall investments in our people. Important jobs in education, public safety, and essential services for our children, grandchildren, and their families and grandparents have been eliminated that we now need to re-establish.

With over $1 billion in a budget surplus Iowa must now make strategic reinvestments in the very systems that make Iowa a good place to live and an attractive place for businesses to grow.

Iowa has one of the lowest rates of uninsured children in the country because we have made public investments in their health. But we still have 40,000 children without health coverage, and we need to finish the job of ensuring they get the health services they need.

Iowa has a community college system that provides a wide array of post-secondary educational opportunities for our youth; but because of insufficient state support, we also have one of the highest tuition rates in the country and too many youth cannot afford to go beyond high school to get the skills they need for careers in the new economy at our universities and community colleges.

Iowa has a high rate of high school completion and basic skills among its adult workforce, but a high school education is not enough to get a job that pays enough to raise a family or creates a workforce that attracts the businesses of the future.

Next session, it will be critical that lawmakers look at how to invest in the future, to restore our education system to world-class and to ensure public services are dependable and of high quality. If we do that, our economy will grow.

This also means we cannot squander the surplus on new tax breaks or subsidies to lure businesses to our state. We need a sound and fair tax structure, one that provides a level playing field, but we cannot race to the bottom in our efforts to lure businesses looking for a quick tax break rather than a productive workforce and good public services.

Iowa’s overall taxes on businesses are low in comparison with other states, particularly because we have enacted an increasing array of unproven tax breaks and subsidies. We need to review these and get rid of those which don’t work or make sense – like the film tax credit – before we adopt more or provide additional across-the-board cuts to business taxes.

Candidates for state office like to talk about their role in “economic development” through attracting business, but study-after-study shows that there is little state government can actually do to affect individual business decisions. When Iowa lawmakers have tried to be an investment banker, venture capitalist, or stock picker they have often squandered precious state resources. The role of state government is to support education and other essential services that make Iowa an attractive place to grow. If we build it – a strong and prosperous climate for business, they will come – and grow and expand.

The last decade – due to the recession and two state budget crises – have resulted in damage to our public systems.  Restoring those systems needs to be Job One of the next General Assembly. Fortunately, with the budget surplus we now have a way to provide strategic and sustainable investments to do just that.

Iowa schools, community colleges, universities, fire and police departments, and the nursing homes and home health workers public funding supports are not some “them” of big and wasteful government; they are the “us” of hard-working Iowans trying to make Iowa a better place for all to live.


The mission of the Coalition for a Better Iowa is to maintain and strengthen high quality public services, programs and structures that promote thriving communities and prosperity for all Iowans. The Coalition for a better Iowa is a broad coalition of Iowa organizations representing children, seniors, faith, human service providers, research, advocates, labor and environmental organizations, as well as engaged Iowa citizens.


Coalition Members:
Child and Family Policy Center
Communications Workers of America, Iowa State Council
Every Child Counts
Every Child Matters in Iowa
Interfaith Alliance of Iowa

Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans
Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children
Iowa Citizen Action Network
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa Community Action Association
Iowa Environmental Council
Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Iowa Policy Project
Iowa Public Health Association
Iowa State Education Association
Linn County Child Development Center
National Association of Social Workers, Iowa Chapter
One Iowa
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland

Progress Iowa
Service Employees International Union, Local 199
Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa
Women for Change

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You can not change the attitudes of the welfare babies. I read with interest that the unions are involved in this request. They just can not uderstand it was programs like they want that caused the budget shotfalls. When the Democrats had control of the governorship we spent ourselves into a recession and they want to go back to the same old thing so we can do it all over again. Wake up people. Give the tax money back to the people and let them spend it the way they want. If you have a good product they will buy it. If you don’t you will go out of business.

Pooooor old public servants crying GIVE us MORE -GIVE us ALL – greedy overpaid perps – How about useing some of this surplus to pay off the 26 billion dollars the state is in ACTUAL debt to your chushy PENSION FUND !

how about instead we just cut the sales tax back to 5% and let people keep their own money. They will spend it or do you people who live off other people’s money think you are so much smarter than them?

Do you like anybody other than yourself?

Aren’t you the same guy who ran for supervisor a 100 or so times? Wouldn’t that be living off of someone elses money then too?

Sales taxes are the only way that ALL people are contributing to the State’s expenses. The people who don’t report their tips, who cheat on their taxes, who live off welfare all their lives – that is the only way they contribute any money at all to our government.
Build more prisons with rehabs and behavior modification with the surplus. We either need to try to rehab these losers we see on mugshots or plan on locking them up every time they commit a crime. Getting them off the streets and out of society is the only solution for creating a better societal model for our young people. If you break the law, off you go until you decide to live legally. That goes for white collar crimes as well. I remember when “hoods” were sent to Eldora back in the ’50’s and ’60’s. Their “crimes” were nothing compared to today. Society has to get tougher on what is acceptable and quit coddling people. If we have lots of room in prisons for criminals and they get sent there for the first crime, they might be less inclined to break the law.

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