OUR TAKE: A thank you to President Biden, Democrats | Editorials
Governor Kim Reynolds barely mentioned the names of President Joe Biden or Democrats in Washington when she delivered her statehood address on Tuesday.
But yet many of the major policy announcements she made on Tuesday rely on funds created not by Reynolds, his Republican legislature or other members of the U.S. Congress party. Instead, they were created by Biden’s legislative agenda and passed without Republican help.
— She gives a $1,000 retention bonus to teachers. This comes from the elementary and secondary school education relief funds, created by Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act.
– Law enforcement and corrections officers will also receive a $1,000 bonus – paid for from ARPA funds.
–To help grow the state’s pool of future teachers, Reynolds will spend $9 million on a new teacher and paraeducator apprenticeship program. The program will accelerate students’ progress toward a paraeducator certificate and an associate’s degree, and those who are already paraeducators can work toward a bachelor’s degree. How does she pay for this? ESSER funding through the US Rescue Plan Act.
– Reynolds celebrated a one-of-a-kind program in Pella, where high school students were offered an apprenticeship program in conjunction with a local nursing home and hospital. Students have received real-world work experience and are able to become a certified practical nurse before graduation. She announced a new grant for high schools in Iowa to bring this program to other parts of the state. Yes, this money also comes from ARPA.
And Tuesday’s announcements aren’t Iowa’s first use of ARPA funds. Some other uses include $200 million for broadband, $30 million for programs to address labor shortages, $100 million for infrastructure and water conservation, and $100 million for dollars for housing initiatives. Yesterday, she announced $36.6 million in statewide child care grants. All this money comes from ARPA.
This heavy use comes after Reynolds failed to support the legislation (neither Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Ashley Hinson nor Randy Feenstra, nor US senses Joni Ernst or Chuck Grassley). While the Reynolds administration does not completely hide the fact that it uses ARPA funds for its accomplishments, it certainly does the bare minimum to acknowledge the impacts of the legislation. We think it’s important to put the credit where it’s really due: ARPA has given Iowa the tools to support many of these programs.
Iowa Republicans say the state’s more than $1 billion surplus is the result of their fantastic fiscal management and conservatism. Of course, selective spending has led to balanced budgets. But it would be foolish to ignore the impact of federal dollars on the state’s fiscal health. Most states are seeing fuller financial coffers thanks to the Biden administration, including Iowa. Moreover, the uncertainties of the pandemic have led to more cautious and conservative forecasts: things have simply turned out better than analysts initially hoped.
Other federal aid programs, like the CARES Act signed into law by President Donald Trump, have also helped reduce state spending.
Iowa law also mandates sound financial management, thanks to a 1992 law passed by Democrats which requires the legislature not to spend more than 99% of state revenue.
In the end, the Iowa Republicans quickly take credit, but there’s more to the story here.