Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Facts about Governor Culver's Efficiency Measures

Nearly half of the options identified by Governor Culver were revenue "enhancements" not savings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Culver Fails to Understand Iowa’s Budget Again

Governor Culver today claimed that he balanced the states budget without using any of the one time bailout money received from the federal government. This statement is completely and totally false as illustrated by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency below. Either Governor Culver does not know or he is intentionally misleading the people of Iowa, either way it is unacceptable.

Last year over $616 million in one time federal bailout money was used by Governor Culver to balance Iowa’s budget.

State School Aid – HF 820 provided $40.0 million for FY 2009 and $202.5 million for FY 2010 to be used to fulfill funding for a portion of State school aid.

Instructional Support State Aid – HF 820 provided $13.1 million in lieu of State aid for the Instructional Support Program in FY 2010. SF 478 (FY 2010 Standing Appropriation Bill) eliminated State funding for the Program for FY 2010.

Regents Universities – HF 820 provided an FY 2010 appropriation of $80.3 million in ARRA Education Stabilization funds to the Department of Management for distribution to the Regents universities. Senate File 470 (FY 2010 Education Appropriations Bill) made total reductions of $80.3 million compared to estimated net FY 2009 to the Regents budget units under the control of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Community Colleges – HF 820 provided an FY 2010 appropriation of $23.1 million in ARRA education stabilization funds and $2.5 million in ARRA government stabilization funds to the Department of Management for distribution to the community colleges. Senate File 470 made total reductions of $22.2 million compared to estimated net FY 2009 for general aid to community colleges.

Medicaid – HF 811 provided $110.0 million for FY 2009 and $144.9 million for FY 2010 to be used to supplement the Medicaid Program.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Liberty Agenda: Putting People First

Iowa Republicans are united in support of returning to the notion that it is Iowans that run government not the other way around. Since 2006, the final year in which Republicans controlled at least one chamber of the legislature, Iowa’s government has become bloated and unresponsive. The focus has become on what is best for the bureaucracy and maintaining the status quo, rather than what is best for Iowa’s families.

As Iowans have seen numerous times over the past several years, government is erecting barricades in front of them instead removing roadblocks to their success. Government has become too large too fast and it is time to make sure government is accountable to Iowa’s families.

Here is what Republicans will do if Iowa voters give us the opportunity:

Allow Iowans the Right to Vote on Marriage

While Iowans differ on the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court all Iowans can agree that the people’s voice has been silenced. There is currently a disagreement between the branches of government. A vote of the people will solve this disagreement. This single act by an individual has been held as the final arbiter in this state and this country for over two centuries. Yet this fundamental democratic act is being thwarted by Democrats who control the Legislature.

Republicans propose that the citizens of Iowa be allowed the opportunity to determine the definition of marriage in Iowa. This is a judgment that should be left in the hands of the citizens, not unelected judges or an unresponsive legislature. Iowans deserve a voice.

A Return to the Fundamentals of Government

As Iowa’s government has expanded, the role of government has changed drastically from one that focuses limited resources on priorities to one that intrudes into trivial matters at the expense of safety.

Since 1998, the final year in which Republicans were in control of state government, the bureaucracy paid for by the taxpayer has increased by over 4,149 employees. This increase has failed to provide additional investments into the men and women that protect us as we travel across this state. In fact since 1998 Iowa has gone from 355 state troopers to only 288 troopers protecting Iowans. This reduction of 67 troopers occurred while the rest of the bureaucracy grew and state spending ballooned to the highest point ever recorded.

Iowa’s government has become unbalanced and out of touch with what Iowa families need and how they want their tax dollars to be spent. Over the past three years alone the bureaucracy has grown to include:
  • 7 new employees in the Governor’s office
  • 2 new gardeners for the Governor’s mansion
  • 20 new employees to collect more taxes
  • 4 new employees to create a data warehouse that is not used
  • Nearly 1,000 vacant but funded positions
Republicans propose to return to the 1998 level of troopers within the next 5 years. While it took a decade for this reduction to occur, Republicans will be aggressive in identifying areas of savings that could be utilized to increase the number of troopers protecting Iowans.

The Iowa Good Neighbor Act

Synonymous with being an Iowan, is being a good neighbor. A neighbor offering to watch your child when the school bus comes in the morning or a grandparent spending time with their grandchildren are examples. These are gestures that can make a huge difference to a family looking to balance the demands of work and parenting. Republicans believe that government cannot be allowed to get in the way of Iowans who rely on family and neighbors.

This fall in Michigan a mother was singled out and nearly fined by Michigan’s version of the Department of Human Services for simply allowing the children waiting in her driveway for the school bus to instead wait inside her house if it was raining or cold. The state decided she was a daycare and attempted to fine her for being unregistered.

This brought to mind Iowa Democrat’s attempts in 2007 to force grandparents to register as daycare providers if they were watching their own grandchildren on a regular basis. Iowans, whether they are neighbors or grandparents, should not be targeted by the Department of Human Services for simply offering a helping hand. This is why Republicans will offer the Iowa Good Neighbor Act to protect Iowans from the intrusive hand of big government. If Iowans want to lend a helping hand by watching a child, they should not be subjected to nanny-state meddling from government.

The Iowa Good Neighbor Act will put into Code specific protections for family members and neighbors who are simply being good Iowans. They will not be defined as a daycare or a daycare provider unless they are specifically offering that service.

The law will put strength behind families and neighbors, not behind the intrusiveness of government inspections. Paternalistic, nanny-state policies are on the rise at the national level and Republicans want to make sure they don’t spread to Iowa.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Making health care accessible, affordable, and portable

We are offering a set of bold, state-based initiatives to make health care more accessible, affordable, and portable.

Health care reform solutions need not come from Washington, DC. In fact, the best reforms are often those developed closest to the people. Iowans do not need to wait for national politicians to act. Instead, they can join with us in pursuit of a set of common sense Iowa Health Care Initiatives and solve Iowa problems with Iowa solutions.


Patients Right to Know Act

As with any product or service, the more information consumers can access to compare the costs and quality of that product or service, the lower the cost and the higher the quality of the products and services they ultimately consume.

Consumers have been slow to embrace market practices to the delivery of health services and, as a result, costs may remain high and quality is often unknown.

We believe the information age provides a tremendous opportunity to dramatically improve access to tools that compare cost and quality in the delivery of health care services on-line. We will propose legislation to establish a statewide information hub that brings together both cost and outcome quality data in a searchable format for online consumers.

Cost and quality transparency will empower consumers to make better health care decisions in a way that maximizes quality while minimizing cost.

Low-Cost Catastrophic Health Plans for those Under 30

Iowans age 18-30 are known as the “Invincibles” as they often believe, given their relative youth and good health, health insurance is a product they do not need. As a result, when they do have to seek medical treatment it is often for a serious condition and very expensive.

In fact, there are 106,000 Iowans in this age group who do not have health insurance and account for roughly half of all the uninsured in the entire state. We will propose legislation that will encourage the development of low cost catastrophic insurance products that will provide base care for younger Iowans and limit the amount of uncompensated care that results when uninsured young Iowans need medical treatment.


Medical Malpractice Reform

No serious attempt at reducing rising health care and insurance costs can move forward without an honest attempt to address the issue of medical malpractice and tort reform.

We have continually championed the need to pass legislation that raises the burden of proof on medical malpractice claims and places reasonable limits on payment for damages.

Expand Health Insurance Tax Deductibility to Individuals and Small Business

Current law allows large employers the opportunity to deduct health care costs “above the line” – meaning a straight dollar for dollar reduction in their taxable income equal to the employer share of health insurance costs and provides a tremendous incentive to provide health insurance to their employees.

Thus, it should be no surprise an independent study shows 94% of employers who have 50 or more employees provide health insurance, whereas 36% of employers who have 10 or fewer employees offer health benefits.

With a significant portion of our population now working for small businesses or for themselves, we believe such above the line deductions for health insurance costs should be extended to all businesses and individuals, be they subchapter S corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships or sole proprietors.

Some estimates suggest an above the line deduction for health insurance costs may provide a 30% savings on such costs and provide a significant incentive to offer health insurance benefits to their employees. It’s simple: if it’s good enough for Wall Street, it should be good enough for Main Street.

Prevention Credits: Putting a Premium on Wellness

Prevention programs that encourage long-term commitment to wellness practices are proven to reduce demand for expensive health services and contain future growth in health care spending. However, our current system chooses to focus on imposing penalties on those who practice less healthy lifestyles (smoking, poor food choices, lack of regular exercise) through higher insurance rates rather than rewarding good health practices with lower rates.

These “prevention credits” will allow an average Iowa family to save upwards of 15% on their health insurance premium or $1,635 on an average family policy. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services there is a return on investment of up to $4.91 for every dollar spent on wellness. This shift in policy will save Iowa families real money while reducing the long term cost of health care in the state.

We propose legislation to require insurers to offer “prevention credits” to individuals and businesses that can be used to reduce health insurance rates for those individuals and businesses that demonstrate, through measurable periodic screening practices, a commitment to wellness and prevention.

This “carrot instead of the stick” approach to prevention and wellness should encourage more Iowans and their employers to actively pursue the promised savings through participation in health and wellness practices that reduce health costs in the long term.


No Pre-Existing Exclusions when Changing Plans with the same Insurance Provider

Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of those seeking continuation of health care coverage than the words “pre-existing conditions”. We propose legislation that prohibits the denial of coverage or the imposition of coverage riders due to pre-existing conditions when an insured Iowan moves from one plan to another plan offered by the same insurance company.

The simple act of moving from Plan A to Plan B (for whatever reason) within the same insurance company should not provide an opportunity to base coverage exclusions as if the employee were accessing coverage with that company for the first time. If the company assumed the risk 20 years ago, it should continue to assume the risk without further exclusions.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Who Knew What Mystery

Culver said he found out about the initial findings Sept. 15, while traveling in eastern Iowa with Tramontina.
“Culver pledges to work with film companies to sort out tax credits”
- Thomas Beaumont Des Moines Register 9/21/09

When information was first brought to my attention last week about Iowa’s film tax credit program, I was troubled.
“An outraged Culver: Iowans will not be taken for suckers”
- Jason Clayworth Des Moines Register 9/22/09

Tramontina submitted a request for proposals Aug. 10 to find an accounting firm to review operations and expenditures of the Iowa Film Office, which is part of economic development department.

He hired the Clifton Gunderson firm of West Des Moines on Aug. 19.
“Film tax errors seen as early as July”
- Lee Rood Des Moines Register 9/23/09

On Tuesday, Governor Chet Culver in Cedar Rapids said at least three times he learned of the tax credit fiasco either "last Tuesday" or "last week". When I asked him to clarify later on during his news conference, he said he had heard about possible problems before then and that's why he said he directed his legal counsel to push for the audit/review/investigation (whatever the proper term would be here) that now-former Iowa Dept of Economic Director Mike Tramontina discussed in a memo last Wednesday.
“Iowa Lawmaker Says Legislators Knew of Film Issues Early Summer”
- Dave Price “Price of Politics” 9/24/09

SEPT. 15: Gov. Chet Culver first hears of problems with the film tax credit, he says. He asks Tramontina for a summary by the end of the next day.
“Miller: Official's assertion on film credits 'mistaken'”
- Lee Rood Des Moines Register 9/25/09

Phil Roeder, spokesman for Culver, said Tramontina raised concerns about the purchase of the automobiles in August, but nobody brought up the depth of the program’s problems until September.
“Lawmaker said he had concerns about film tax credit program months ago”
- Charlotte Eby Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier 10/6/09

"It is critical that the Department of Economic Development immediately prevent additional spending for this program," Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, wrote to Mike Tramontina, the department's director, on Aug. 6. Dotzler send copies of his letter to the governor's office, state auditor and attorney general.
“Records show Culver's office was notified about film office trouble in August”
- Lee Rood Des Moines Register 11/7/2009

The question the Governor now needs to answer is what did he know and when did he know it? Governor Culver clearly stated that he did not learn of the problems at the Iowa Film Office until September 15th from former IDED Director Mike Tramontina. Yet both his spokesperson and the Governor himself stated that they knew of the irregularities in August. In fact the Governor went on to claim that he pushed for the audit put out for an RFP by Tramontina on the 10th of August. So Governor what did you know and when did you know it?