Chronicle Editorial

Spending problem or revenue problem, it’s probably both

     It turns out that lawmakers’ projections of budget revenues for the upcoming fiscal year are lower than anticipated, at approximately $96.2 million, according to a Des Moines Register article. The result is a proposal by Governor Terry Branstad that cuts $110 million from the budget. Of that, the largest cut is $34 million toward higher education institutions, such as Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.

     Many in the now Republican-controlled legislature state that the state doesn’t necessarily have a revenue problem; rather, the state has a spending problem.

     In response, the answer is probably both.

     Comparisons made by politicians that the government should run its budget like a household runs theirs are shortsighted in the sense that individual households have different commitments than governments. Not too mention that some families do go into debt to fund their own budget shortfalls via loans and credit cards, much like governments do.  Debt is a problem, but also a risk that if works out, can repay investments.

     Republicans blame revenue, Democrats blame failed tax breaks to outside companies, when the problem is a little bit of both. Out of state companies are risks, that when working out, pay off in terms of revenue for the state in terms of taxes.

     Risks are risks because some times, they don’t pay off. But the end result shouldn’t be to chastise the other party. What if the investments had worked? Would anyone really be complaining? Would there be a need for budget cuts?

     But because it didn’t, the political landscape encourages finger pointing, rather than going back to the drawing board.

     Branstad released his plan to make ends meet with the budget, but now it’s the legislature’s turn to do its part. Maybe there’s reason to pass tighter restrictions on tax breaks to outside companies; maybe there’s a compromise on funding cuts. But much like investments, cuts too are a risk on their own.

     Higher education cuts of $34 million is not a small amount, and with student debt at an all time high, cutting that much money to an instate tuition cost of approximately $28,000 (ISU data) only increases the chance of a tuition hike.

     It’s an unspoken trend that once money is usually cut, it’s extremely challenging to get it back in the year’s to come, as governments and institutions work to adjust their long term plans accordingly. But just like debt is an investment, legislatures should take care to look at what poses the greatest risk on return if funding is cut.

     Maybe that is education, or maybe it’s not. Education is looked as a key to better things in society, such as higher wages and healthier outcomes, both of which weigh heavily on the state. Whether it’s a revenue problem, or a spending problem, the answer is never one or the other. Both must be adjusted for long term growth. 


Religious freedom bill

     Iowa State Senator Dennis Guth (R-District 4) went on record with intent to present a “religious freedom restoration” bill before the legislature in the current session of Iowa lawmaking. The bill would be modeled after and Indiana law, which sparked national concerns that it allowed for the discrimination of the LGBTQ community.

     Now Vice President-elect Mike Pence called for a fix on the Indiana law that clarified that the religious freedom wouldn’t allow businesses to discriminate. Guth, according to the Des Moines Register, doesn’t believe that fix was needed in the first place, on account of holding differing opinions is protected under the constitution, while the right to “never be offended” is not protected under the constitution.

     The US Constitution and amendments, as well as enacted laws, do in fact not allow for discrimination, which is what proponents against not having the clause in the bill are arguing. It isn’t a matter of being offended, it’s a matter of the right guaranteed to citizens, to be treated as equals.

     The legislature should remember to make laws based on the rights of the people to participate in the free world. Especially when Iowans operate on local economies, discrimination hurts not only the citizens discriminated against, but hurts the local economy.