AFSCME Iowa Council 61 - Every Day. Everywhere. Making Iowa Better.

Legislative Update: January 23, 2015

President’s State of the Union aimed at helping middle class
On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address and laid out a series of proposed policies focused on giving a boost to working families. However, a newly Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to go along with the president’s ideas.

The President illustrated the economic strength of the union. “Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before,” said Obama.

Although the economy is now showing strong job growth, wage growth continues to lag behind. Obama advocated for a number of policies to address this, including strengthening unions. “To give working families a fair shot, we'll still need more employers to see beyond next quarter's earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company's long-term interest. We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice,” he said.

Some of the other policy proposals outlined by the President included raising the minimum wage, providing two free years of community college, expansion of child care tax credits, and closing corporate loopholes in the tax code.

This was the first State of the Union the president has given since Republicans took control of both houses of Congress. Given the unenthusiastic reaction to much of the president’s policy recommendations by Republicans in Congress, it seems unlikely the Republicans will go along with his proposals.

Governor’s Education Plan
The opening weeks of session have illustrated a large gap between Governor Branstad’s plans for education and the needs of Iowa students. The Governor’s budget proposal calls for 0.8% in allowable growth. The Iowa Senate Democrats released a survey of 205 Iowa school superintendents. A majority of superintendents who responded said that the governor’s plan would result in increasing class sizes, teacher layoffs, delays in book and classroom material purchases, reduction in class offerings, and increases in property taxes. 96.1% of the superintendents who responded to the survey said allowable growth should be set between 4% and 6%.

This week, Republicans on the Iowa House Education Committee passed the governor’s recommendations for school funding out of their committee. Iowa House Democrats have called for a public hearing on this bill. According to the Iowa State Education Association, this small increase would not even cover school district’s negotiated raises.

Iowa’s investment in education has been lacking in recent years. As result of this, Iowa has fallen to $1,600 below the national average for per-pupil funding.

Iowa needs to invest in our schools today for a bright future tomorrow. The governor’s proposal fails to do this.

Legislative Forums
We strongly urge members to attend their legislators’ forums. We post links to legislative forum calendars on our website. We typically update this page on Wednesday or Thursday of each week.

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