When TLC isn't Tender Loving Care

Bruce Lear explains the problems with a teacher development program that has consumed a substantial share of new state funding for public education in recent years. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Since when does TLC not stand for Tender Loving Care? Since 2013, TLC has come to mean something totally different to Iowa educators.

During the second coming of the Terry Branstad administration, a new teacher funding program called Teacher Leader Compensation (TLC) began. While all of the major education groups in 2013 welcomed the new money, everyone forgot what it could do to overall school funding for the future. Like the un-forecasted snow storm, TLC has caused major unpredicted and unintended damage to Iowa schools.

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The Jury Is In: Impact of Iowa Business Property Tax Cuts

Thanks to Jon Muller for a close look at the effects of a law that is a major reason Iowa lacked the revenue to fund K-12 schools and higher education adequately this year. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Senate File 295, the keystone tax bill passed into Iowa law in 2013, is now in full swing. It left a big hole in the State’s General Fund. It delivered handsomely on its promise to cut taxes for commercial property owners, at least in the short run. It provided modest help to the working poor. For its $500 million (plus) price tag, it has accomplished little else.

One positive aspect from the bill, at least from the perspective of most readers on this blog, was an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, which returns approximately $30 million to low-income working Iowans. Whether that benefit was worth the hundreds of millions given away to Iowa commercial property owners is a question left to the political analysts.

The remainder of this piece will focus on the property tax components of the bill. For reasons economic, these provisions are not likely to fulfill their stated purpose of spurring development or reducing rents for small businesses and renters. Those issues will be the subject of a different blog post. This post addresses a variety of tax burden shifts, some intended, some not. Virtually all of the benefit has gone directly to improve the wealth of commercial property owners, and shifted the property tax burden to homeowners in the short-medium run. In a strange twist, for those who desired that impact, even that may possibly fail the test of time.

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Now he tells us: Hatch bashes property tax law he voted for, campaigned on

Jack Hatch isn’t happy with the work of his former colleagues in the Iowa Senate. Writing in the Sunday Des Moines Register, he declared the 2016 legislative session to be a “disaster for Democrats,” who made no progress on improving water quality, protecting public employees, raising the minimum wage, or funding education adequately. In Hatch’s view, Governor Terry Branstad has “bullied” Senate Democrats “into siding with him in serving only the top 10 percent.” In particular, he cited the “historic levels of tax relief for corporations” senators approved three years ago, part of a trend toward providing generous tax breaks for business while Iowa schools lack essential resources.

I couldn’t agree more that the commercial property tax cut lawmakers approved at the end of the 2013 legislative session was too expensive and mostly oriented toward businesses that didn’t need help, with foreseeable consequences for public services. Undoubtedly, that legislation and other corporate tax breaks are largely responsible for budget constraints that drove Democrats toward lousy deals on funding for K-12 school districts as well as higher education.

Just one question: why didn’t Hatch listen to the experts who warned at the time that the tax cut amounted to “Christmas for Walmart and McDonald’s”?

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Change in Iowa Medicaid policy hasn't reduced abortion access

A year after Iowa law changed to require the governor to approve all Medicaid reimbursements for abortions, the new policy does not appear to have limited low-income women’s access to abortions in cases of rape, incest, threat to the mother’s life or severe fetal abnormality.

On the other hand, the policy has in effect ended Medicaid coverage of abortion in Iowa, which was already among the most restrictive states in this area.  

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Weekend open thread: Stories of the year

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

I didn’t post a year-end summary of Iowa politics news from 2013, but two big stories are obvious bookends: Senator Tom Harkin’s decision in January not to seek re-election, and Representative Tom Latham following suit in December. Other important developments ranged from the surprising (a highly productive legislative session despite divided control) to the expected (Representative Steve King making national news with offensive remarks).

The Sioux City Journal compiled King’s highlight reel for 2013. “Cantaloupe calves” seems destined to become a lasting catch phrase, and may stir nightmares for Republican strategists hoping to make inroads with Latino voters. But King can feel successful in that immigration reform now appears less likely to pass than it did early last year.

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Will Branstad fix the mess his mental health funding veto created?

Iowa’s constitution allows the governor to line-item veto provisions in appropriations bills, and Governor Terry Branstad has used that power to overrule legislative decisions on many spending proposals, large and small. Among this year’s line-item vetoes, perhaps the most controversial was Branstad’s surprising decision to ax $13 million for mental health services. That line item was intended to cushion the blow for counties as Iowa reorganizes its mental health care delivery system. (In the past, available care depended greatly on a patient’s county of residence.) Despite broad bipartisan support for this appropriation and a large state budget surplus, Branstad decided that counties didn’t need extra help with mental health services.

This week four Democratic state senators and one Republican asked Branstad to help fix the mess he created, which has already led to some service cuts.

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