House Republican Newsletter

Guest Column
Lee Hein
Iowa State Representative, 96th Dist.

Budget outlook updated

     The Revenue Estimating Conference met last week to make their latest revenue projections for both the current and following fiscal years. The REC has continued to cite low commodity prices and a sluggish agricultural economy as a driving factor for the lower than anticipated revenue figures. Inaccurate revenue projections are not limited to Iowa. At least 30 states, whose economies largely rely on agriculture and energy, have had to make budget reductions in the middle of their fiscal year.

FY 2017

     The REC lowered the FY17 revenue projection by $131 million. This is in addition to the $117 million in reductions that were done at the beginning of session. With only a few months left in the fiscal year, additional budget reduction opportunities remain limited. Gov. Branstad has proposed using the Cash Reserve account to make up the budget shortfall. If this happens, House Republicans will not adjourn session without a plan to refill the cash reserve account.

FY 2018

     The REC lowered the FY18 revenue projection by $191 million. This leaves about $6 million available in new revenue for the fiscal year. An additional $40 million has already been approved for schools.

Moving Forward

     The House plan to effectively manage the state budget is threefold:

     1. Taxpayers and the Legislature need more accurate revenue estimates from the Revenue Estimating Conference.

     2. A hard look needs to be taken at the “what” and “where” taxpayer money is used to make sure Iowans are getting the best value and their priorities are being met.

     3. Every tax credit is on the table to ensure Iowa’s taxpayers are getting a good deal.

     Democrats are criticizing the budget management of Republicans but conveniently leave out the fact that they supported plans that increase state spending by more than $1 BILLION over the last two years. Without the Republican majority’s strong stand, key areas like local school budgets would be facing deep cuts. Iowans can count on us to stand strong against reckless government spending ideas. 

Bold solutions move forward in the Iowa House last week

     School Funding Flexibility: House Files 564 and 565 provide schools with more flexibility, allowing locally elected officials to utilize unused funds that are typically reserved for specific purposes. These bills recognize that no two school districts are exactly alike and will allow each school district to better meet the specific needs of our students and teachers.

     Protecting Young Iowans from Synthetic Drugs: House File 296 will protect Iowa’s kids by keeping deadly synthetic drugs off the streets, while also making it easier to prosecute sellers of those drugs.

     Supporting Families with Autistic Children: House File 215 addresses the unique challenges parents of children with autism face by extending insurance coverage for autism treatments to Iowa families. Coverage for autism can be very expensive but is very beneficial for future growth. This legislation ensures access to programs with proven, positive outcomes in the child’s development.

     Privacy Protections for the 21st Century: House Joint Resolution 1 extends Fourth Amendment privacy protections to Iowans’ electronic communications and data, ensuring Constitutional rights keep up with today’s technology.

     Reining in an Out of Control Federal Government: House Joint Resolution 12 calls for a Convention of the States to address the Federal Government’s power and jurisdiction.

Worker’s Compensation Reform

     Benefits owed to legitimately injured workers need to be safeguarded. Prevention of future injuries is a key goal of these reforms.

     Law-abiding workers who follow the rules need to be protected from those who recklessly come to work impaired by alcohol, marijuana or through prescription drug abuse.

     There’s a case to be made that workers’ compensation needs to be reformed to help workers get on with their lives and back to work, not force them into the court room.

     Worker’s compensation is supposed to be a system to help replace an injured worker’s weekly paycheck while that employee is working to get back to full health – when possible – and return to work.

     Iowa’s workers compensation system was originally designed to provide benefits to injured workers without the need to hire an attorney. The system should be simpler so an injured employee knows exactly what kind of benefits they can rely upon. Costs need to be reduced for workers and employers.

     The fairness and stability of Iowa’s worker’s compensation system needs to remain intact. Workers and employers need certainty, stability and predictability regarding any injury a worker may sustain.

     Iowa’s workers compensation system is easily exploited by people who want to game the system; such as greedy attorneys and doctors taking advantage of injured workers. The system is meant to provide a safety net to workers injured or disabled at work, not provide generous payouts to those who want to exploit the generous nature of our system.

     Employers need to have an incentive built into the system to hire new or keep employees with disabilities that impact their work.

     Iowa’s worker’s compensation system was never meant to put an injured worker in a better financial situation than they had prior to the injury.

     The amendment sets up a new vocational rehabilitation program for those who suffer a shoulder injury: such persons will undergo an evaluation through the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner’s office to determine whether or not the injured person is eligible for enrollment in a vocational rehabilitation program through a community college for job training: in a certificate program or associate degree program. The employer is required to pay the educational expenses not to exceed $15,000 and can ask for status reports each semester. This hopefully would retrain the employee for a position that would not cause the reinjure of the shoulder.


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