Life in Iowa has been quite interesting of late, or at least since the start of the current Legislative session. If one stops and thinks about the news out of our state capitol since the beginning of the year, it's a bit concerning.
Early this year we learned that the state's Revenue Estimating Committee, the so called "whiz kids" who predict how much money the state will make through taxes, etc., missed their estimate of state revenues - and by a fairly large amount." The decline in the agricultural sector was blamed, and the end result was that budget cuts were quickly instituted through the state budget, which hurts locally.
One of those local cuts was for Iowa Lakes Community College, who had to pare a pretty good chunk out of their budget to meet the state shortfall. Andy who does that affect??Students and area residents, through cutbacks in programs and offerings.
Then our lawmakers returned to the statehouse and began lawmaking. One of the first things that was pounded through was the change in Iowa's Collective Bargaining laws. While the public came out in strong opposition to the proposed changes being supported (and perhaps orchestrated by the Governor) our lawmakers limited the amount of public debate time on the measure and quickly passed a new law that has school districts across the state scratching their heads on just how to proceed with their negotiations with their teachers.
Understandably, the teachers are apprehensive over the changes, and in turn, so are the districts, because, like every law that comes out of the statehouse, there is more than one interpretation, and the question now floating in the air is "which interpretation of the law is correct?"
If that wasn't enough, those fun folks in the Revenue Estimating Committee poked their heads out of their burrow, much like Puxatawney Phil, and blinked - again. "Revenue growth is not progressing as we estimated." Translation: cut more money from the state budget.
My question is perhaps overly simple - Who are those people, where do they come up with these estimates and how in the world can they be wrong all the time and still have jobs?
Oh, wait - that's the same set of questions we ask about weather forecasters every winter, isn't it...
Anyhow, the fun at the Statehouse continues - now, the lawmakers want to go after the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System, a pension fund operated for public employees that has been in operation for years. Teachers, firefighters, peace officers and snow plow drivers are just some of the public employees who have paid money into this fund, and now the Legislature wants to absorb and eliminate it for other purposes.
Needless to say, there are a ton of public employees who, if IPERS were to disappear, would find themselves in difficult straits, to say the least. Obviously, the public doesn't want the Legislature to "fix" IPERS, like they did collective bargaining, but the question is, will the Legislature hear the wishes of the public?
If past history is any indicator, this is a tough call. Town Hall meetings were opposed to the collective bargaining changes, but the law was changed anyway.
We the people have spoken with our votes, and when lawmakers ignore the voters, something has to change.
Let's hope it's back to being responsive to the public.