Promises made. Promises broken!

Gov. Reynolds and the GOP said they would protect and not touch 411/IPERS

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

2016: Governor Reynolds said making changes to IPERS was one of her top priorities and IPERS was not sustainable. 

2017:  Governor Reynolds comment: “As a defined benefit plan (pension) IPERS is secure, strong, and sustainable.” 

Which is it, Governor? 

2017: Collective Bargaining is gutted by GOP. They never talked about CB in 2016 campaign.

2017:  July 2017, Governor Reynolds appoints GOP Senator Charles Schneider, Iowa’s ALEC state leader, to study IPERS. He hires the Koch Brothers funded Reason Foundation who are anti-pension.

June 2018:  Governor Reynolds said, “as we look at doing a hybrid or different options…..”   

2018:  Iowa’s GOP twice invites out of state think tanks (Reason Foundation) to testify against IPERS.

2018:  Late fall:  A spokesperson of Governor Reynolds says “the Governor has no intention of changing IPERS for any participant current or future.”  

2018-2019: GOP Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, chair of the Iowa House State Government Committee: “There will be zero IPERS bills, period.. No tweaks, no adjustments. I’m not even entertaining changing punctuation, let alone policy.”

GOP Speaker Linda Upmeyer: “There are no secret plans to change IPERS for current employees or new hires.”

Governor Kim Reynolds: “To those state and local government employees who care deeply about this issue, let me be crystal clear; under my watch your IPERS is safe. It will not change, it will be protected, ....Period.”

Governor Reynolds took a $50,000 campaign contribution from Public Pension Enemy Rex Sinquefield of Missouri. 

2019: SF 634 passes and redirects 411/IPERS pension payments from the Supplemental Trust and Agency Levy into the General Fund Levy.  

That seems to be more than a change in punctuation!

IPERS members were told by GOP legislators, that IPERS would be taken out of the property tax bill.  It was not!

Gerry Roland’s analysis of SF 634: 

“...Code of Iowa Section 384 states that a city’s tax levy for the general fund shall not exceed $8.10 per thousand of taxable value, except for the 21 specific taxes listed in 384.12. Those taxes fund such things as bridges, library services, civic centers, vocal groups, and orchestras. SF 634 creates a new Frankenstein monster of a budget category that triggers onerous new steps in the budget process if there is more than a 2% increase from the previous year.

This is where the malice baked into this legislation rears its ugly head.  Eight of the 21 items that are excluded from the $8.10 cap for the general fund get pulled into the 2% trigger. Why those eight? By what logic are they included in the 2% trigger and not the $8.10 cap for general fund property taxes? Surely, the point is to pressure cities into reducing or eliminating funding.

One way to appreciate the harmful intent toward pensions is to look at which funds were put in and left out of the 2% trigger. Section 384 lists four funds that are kept separate from the general fund: trust and agency (mainly pensions, including IPERS and 411), emergency, debt service, and capital improvements. These funds are outside the $8.10 general fund property tax cap. Trust and agency and emergency are included in the 2% Frankenstein trigger. Not included are capital improvements and debt service. So, why are pensions and the emergency fund singled out to be included in the 2% general fund trigger? One probable motive is to trigger additional scrutiny and put those funds in a negative light.” 

State Treasurer and IPERS Board Member Michael Fitzgerald:

“First, I think this is a bad bill. I believe in letting local governments control their budgets. Local government officials know what they need to best serve their communities. One potential outcome of this bill could be to put pension funds in competition with other budget priorities. For example, funds used to pay employee pension benefits for firefighters, police, and other valuable public servants should not be pitted against funds to repair roads.

Surely there was a better way to bring transparency to public budgeting. Gov. Reynolds, you promised to protect IPERS. This bill does the opposite.”

Here is how Iowa Labor News describes the threat to IPERS and 411 employees. “Increases in pension contributions and health insurance premiums are outside the control of cities and counties and have been growing faster than 2%. This means pension payments and local government essential services will be pitted against each other.”   

The GOP will say that IPERS issued a statement saying the bill will not affect IPERS.  One person at IPERS said that. The IPERS board did not make that statement!  

The GOP will say that SF 634 does not affect IPERS. OK, then why didn’t the GOP just take it out of the property tax bill, like they said they were going to?   

From Tony Reid:

“634 will hamstring cities and counties by making it hard to handle disasters, promote growth, and may reduce their credit rating. And it’s a blatant violation of local control.  

“As for IPERS, that statement was issued by Reynolds. The statement merely affirms that cities must pay their contribution, but it ignores the fact that cities may struggle to pay.

“The fact remains: 634 may harm IPERS and 411. The fact that you refused to address this issue indicates that you intend to harm IPERS.

“Meanwhile, it’s YOUR fault that cities have had to rely more on property taxes, because you cut their revenue from taxes on corporations.

“Why are you doing this to cities? They are the source of whatever economic growth we’ve seen in Iowa.”

But wait, there’s more. In the fall of 2018 Governor Reynolds was saying that she would protect public workers pensions and that Fred Hubbell would raise your taxes. Now I read that our local county supervisors have no way to pay for Governor Reynold’s Children’s Mental Health System but to (you guessed it) raise property taxes. Mental health regions are responsible for 80% of the cost, which is  $3.7 million the first year. Oh, and it gets better. The Legislative Services Agency projects the cost to regions by 2021 to be $8.4 million! The state is only promising $700,000 annually! Not only that, the supervisors knew this was coming but the GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature told them they could not save any money toward it. Oh my!   

Looks like the above mentioned controversial property tax/411/IPERS bill SF634 really won’t save you any property taxes but will pit 411/IPERS funding against children’s mental health funding.

So, remember who raised your property taxes and who is trying to eliminate 411/IPERS!

(Even though they tell you they are not). And by the way, “Where’s the transparency?”

P.S. Did I mention that Iowa’s Medicaid program is under federal investigation?

Did I mention Iowa dropped from first to 14th in best state status losing ground in infrastructure, health care, economy, crime and corrections, and education although Gov. Reynolds says she made historic investments in education. (State supplemental aid, the amount of new money available to schools, grew an average of 3.27% annually between 2000 and 2010. Since then it has dropped to 1.73% per year.) I guess some of the lowest educational funding in the past 20 years and continual funding less than the rate of inflation is historic.  

JOHN BROSTAD

Storm Lake

Articles Section: