By FRED HUBBELL
Gov. Kim Reynolds has been elected in her own right, and myself and more than 3 million Iowans are relying on her leadership to deliver on the important priorities and initiatives she promoted throughout her campaign.
With the 2019 legislative session set to begin this month, we must refresh these campaign promises and watch closely to see whether they are reflected in the Governor’s Condition of the State speech and proposed budget for the coming year.
On the campaign trail, the governor repeatedly said her top priorities were improving education, healthcare and reducing taxes. In discussing education, the governor often referred to Future Ready Iowa and expanding STEM education as her two top initiatives to improve our education results. With neither program receiving significant funding support in the 2018 or 2019 state budgets, the most important measure of the governor’s commitment will be if either initiative receives serious budget allocations for fiscal year 2020.
Many educators and state and local government employees will also be paying close attention to see if the governor mentions IPERS in her address. Toward the end of her campaign, the governor went out of her way to promise IPERS will be protected and her administration will “honor the commitments” made to hundreds of thousands of state workers. Iowans should pay a close eye to ensure this promise is uncompromised throughout the course of the coming legislative session.
Healthcare received considerable attention over the past year, especially mental health and Medicaid privatization. Regarding mental health and substance abuse, the governor often referred to her legislative progress in both areas but also said much more needed to be done. We need to closely watch her speech and budget proposals to learn whether or not the Governor is truly committed to matching her rhetoric with real state investments in prevention and treatment.
During the campaign, Governor Reynolds admitted mistakes had been made in implementing Iowa’s Medicaid privatization. She also said positive changes have and will continue to be made to ensure Medicaid members receive proper services and Medicaid providers are reimbursed in a timely fashion. Thousands of vulnerable Iowans, their families, and health care providers across the state will be watching closely to see and hear exactly what actions the governor will take to make sure these promised improvements come to fruition.
Additionally, Governor Reynolds proposed allowing contraceptives to be purchased over the counter without a doctor’s prescription. Many women will be anxious to hear whether this will be a real policy proposal the governor intends to push with the Legislature, or merely an empty and pandering campaign promise.
Reducing taxes was also a top priority in the governor’s campaign, expressing a desire to further reduce them following last year’s massive tax rollbacks, nearly all of which went to the top 5 percent of income earners. After two years of significant mid-year budget cuts to balance the state’s budget — notably to higher education, healthcare, and the judiciary system — and the projections of considerable decline in future state revenue growth, it will be important to learn how the Governor’s proposed budget balances even lower tax revenues with her promises to improve education and healthcare.
As Iowans and voters, we should all pay close attention to her words and her proposed budget.
Fred Hubbell is the former Chair of Younkers Retail Department Stores and CEO of Equitable of Iowa, and the 2018 Democratic Nominee for Governor of Iowa.