Iowa governor wrongly claims credit for large budget surplus

Tax and budget policy expert Randy Bauer was Governor Tom Vilsack’s budget director for six and a half years and has evaluated tax and revenue policies for many state and local governments.

In late September, Governor Kim Reynolds announced that the State of Iowa had a $1.24 billion surplus for fiscal year 2021, which ended on June 30. In a news release, she and the state’s interim budget director credited their own fiscal management for the surplus. Top Iowa Republican lawmakers have echoed that message.

Was it really all that praiseworthy? I’d suggest not. Here’s why this record surplus was not the big deal Reynolds and her minions made it out to be.

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Put 'er . . . where?

Ira Lacher: Now that the Delta surge seems to be fading and we can dare to dream of being together again, an entire legion of scientific Debbie Downers is scolding us to do away with a millennium-old cultural mainstay.

Recently I attended an event where I didn’t know most of the folks, all of whom, as I, were masked. At the close, and we prepared to take our leave, I automatically did what uncounted multitudes have done to acknowledge becoming acquainted with someone new: I offered up a handshake. And a few turned it down. Some preferred the fist bump; others, a forearm touch.

Initially, I shrugged off those responses, simply complying, as requested. But on the drive home it started to bother me because I realized those requests, while perfectly understandable in our COVID world, seemed somehow forced or staged. And I couldn’t tell very much about those folks the way I could from a handshake. And that bothered me even more. Because it seems that along with the millions of lives the pandemic has robbed us of, it’s robbing many of the survivors of their humanity, specifically, the need for physical touching.

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Governor's own words helped sink mask mandate ban in court

A federal court confirmed on October 8 that Iowa cannot enforce the state’s ban on mask mandates in public schools, pending resolution of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Iowa on behalf of a disability advocacy group and eleven parents of children with disabilities.

U.S. District Court Senior Judge Robert Pratt’s preliminary injunction follows a temporary restraining order he issued and extended last month, putting the law on hold. About two dozen Iowa school districts, including most of the largest, have since reimposed mask mandates, affecting more than 150,000 students.

The state immediately appealed Pratt’s ruling to the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. In a written statement, Reynolds said, “We will never stop fighting for the rights of parents to decide what is best for their children and to uphold state laws enacted by our elected legislators. We will defend the rights and liberties afforded to all American citizens protected by our constitution.” 

The governor’s bluster is not consistent with the state’s own legal arguments, which have not asserted the Iowa or U.S. constitutions establish any right not to wear masks, or to have one’s children remain unmasked at school.

The irony is that Reynolds’ own public statements have bolstered the plaintiffs’ case against the law Republicans rushed to enact in May.

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UNI professor, students won't declare mask conflict resolved

The University of Northern Iowa is keen to move beyond the controversy over its decision to discipline a biology professor who insisted that students wear masks in his class. The university announced on October 6 that it had “reached an agreement” with Professor Steve O’Kane after “listening to the concerns and working closely with all parties involved.” O’Kane will teach an advanced plant systematics course online, and another faculty member will take over the classroom teaching, where participants won’t have to cover their noses and mouths.

The written statement asserted, “UNI continues to support the rights of all our faculty, staff and students and is pleased to have reached a resolution that protects all of those involved.”

O’Kane and his students don’t feel their interests were protected.

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Let's not change the definition of local control

Bruce Lear: Instead of allowing elected school boards to make decisions for a school district, Iowa’s governor now defines local control as parents deciding what’s best for their own children.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, especially since Governor Kim Reynolds has altered the definition of local control to justify signing a mask mandate ban for schools. There’s a reason “Community” is the middle name for almost every public school district in Iowa. 

Public schools are often a town’s largest employer as well as the community center. On Friday nights, the school’s fields or gyms can be the center of the universe for young athletes and their parents.

In fact, the relationship is symbiotic. The community helps the school thrive, and the school helps a community survive.

Too bad Reynolds distrusts Iowa communities so much she won’t allow local control over safety decisions fitting the community. Instea≈ and is appealing a federal court decision that put the mask mandate ban on hold. 

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UNI's pandering to anti-maskers reaches new depths

The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) has punished biology Professor Steve O’Kane and threatened him with possible termination after he told students to wear masks in a course he teaches in person, Vanessa Miller reported for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. None of O’Kane’s students had complained about the request. All who had signed up for his specialized class are now left without a qualified instructor.

It’s the latest example of how Iowa’s state universities and their governing body value the feelings of anti-maskers over the health and safety of students and staff, reducing the quality of education and bringing faculty morale to new lows.

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