Yesterday the House of Representatives approved and President Barack Obama signed a $26.1 billion package to support state education and Medicaid budgets in the current fiscal year. The bill passed the House by a 247 to 161 vote. Iowa's House delegation split on party lines, as with the 2009 federal stimulus bill and previous legislation designed to support public sector jobs in the states. Iowa will receive about $96.5 million of the $10 billion in education funding, enough to save an estimated 1,800 teachers' jobs.
The bill also contains $16.1 billion in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage or FMAP funding, including about $128 million to support Iowa's Medicaid budget in the 2011 fiscal year. Last week I read conflicting reports about how much Medicaid assistance Iowa would receive, but staffers for Representatives Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack confirmed yesterday that $128 million is the correct figure. That's a bit more than Iowa legislators were counting on for FMAP funding in the 2011 budget. Extra federal spending on Medicaid also "has an economic benefit for the state of Iowa far greater than the federal government's initial investment," according to Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson.
For the last several days, I have been searching for some comment on this legislation from Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad. I've found nothing in news clips, and his campaign has not issued a press release on the federal fiscal aid since the Senate approved the bill on August 4.
Branstad rails against "one-time sources" of funding to support the state budget, but he has nothing to say about $96.5 million for Iowa schools and $128 million for Iowans dependent on Medicaid services.
Branstad is happy to run false advertising about the number of teachers' jobs supposedly lost in Iowa, but he has nothing to say when federal action saves a significant number of teachers' jobs. The issue is a bit awkward for Branstad, because Republicans Tom Latham and Steve King voted against the fiscal aid bill in the House, just as Republican Chuck Grassley voted no in the Senate.
Perhaps Branstad lacks the courage to go beyond vague campaign rhetoric about excessive government spending. It's easy to talk abstractly about "one-time" funding, but risky to slam government support for education and Medicaid. CNN's latest nationwide poll, which was in the field from August 6 through August 10, asked respondents, "Do you favor or oppose a bill in which the federal government would provide 26 billion dollars to state governments to pay for Medicaid benefits and the salaries of public school teachers or other government workers?" 60 percent of respondents favored such a bill, while only 38 percent opposed it.
Speaking of conspicuous silence from Branstad, when will he tell us how he plans to keep his contradictory promises to cut state spending by 15 percent while having the state pay a larger share of mental health and school funding?
Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.