January 31, 2019
The third week of session began with ice and snow, and ended with as everyone knows, bitterly cold temperatures and wind chills.
There were rumors floating around Tuesday morning that the Governor was going to shut down State Government for a few days because of the cold weather.
The topic was raised at her Monday press briefing so it was a legitimate possibility that everyone would be told to stay home for a couple of days. Here in the Iowa House, our leadership decided that since most of us were already in Des Moines, we wanted to “stay open” to conduct the people’s business.
To me, even though it was dangerous outside it was only right that if we are getting paid, we should be at work. After all, there are federal employees here in Iowa who have probably not been paid for a month. How fair would that be?
Committees continue to meet but no bills are ready for floor debate. This is the time of session when heads of various agencies come before both standing committees and budget subcommittees to present their case for either certain legislature or state funding.
This week, Mark Lowe, Director of Department of Transportation, presented before two committees that I serve on. First he presented the departments spending request to the Transportation and Infrastructure budget sub-committee.
In the afternoon, Mr. Lowe spoke to the standing Transportation Committee. He said the state is making good progress on fixing structurally deficient bridges on state highways, but we now have to move into a preventative mode.
One of the newest proposals from the department is to construct a new combined facility at Sioux City which will replace five older existing facilities.
This project will cost about $27 million, but will be more efficient and able to better accommodate today’s larger equipment. Finally, Director Lowe talked to both committees about ongoing studies on electric and hybrid vehicles and the impact such vehicles will have on the Road Use Tax Fund which receives its funding from a tax on fuel.
The more electric cars there are, the less fuel will be sold and taxed so Transportation Departments across the country are looking for ways to collect revenue from these electric and hybrids. As usual, the “taxman” cometh.
Medicaid is a federal/state partnership which provides health related services to almost 600,000 Iowans. It is a very expensive program and has grown substantially over the last 30 years. For example, in 1990, Medicaid consumed 7% of the state budget. Today, almost 20% of the budget is spent on Medicaid.
The program provides very vital services to a lot of people, but it also needs to be sustainable. The state switched to a managed care modernization program several years ago which has had some implementation problems but seems to be improving.
We all want these programs to run properly, but it also needs to care for people with compassion and efficiency. Iowa’s Medicaid costs taxpayers $153 per second, so we need to get it right.
Finally, negotiating continues with the Governor and Senate on K-12 funding. I am hopeful we will have an agreement soon so schools will have an accurate number to work with as they finalize their budgets.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is P.O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.