Dems: Jochum 2016 End of Session Remarks

May 2, 2016
By

Jochum at podium

In my opening remarks for the 2016 General Assembly, I posed a challenge to craft a fiscally responsible budget that was fair to all Iowans and that would help build an economy that works for everyone.  As the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better, when we all do better.”

Although Iowa’s workers outperform the national average on productivity, their wages remain twenty-three percent below the national average.  Furthermore, over 100,000 Iowa children live in poverty and one-in-five Iowa children are food insecure. Too many Iowans are still left behind and those impacted the most are our children—Iowa’s future.  So, crafting a budget that was responsive to the needs of Iowans and that paved a pathway to a more prosperous future for all Iowans was critical.

That’s why in my opening remarks I called for a “new war on poverty and income inequality.”  We cannot cut our way to prosperity.  We must out-educate, out innovate, and out-build the world.  We must invest in our children’s education and provide opportunities for any Iowan who wants to improve or acquire new skills that will improve their financial well-being.  Education is the engine that moves us forward.

As difficult as this budget was to craft, we were able to take steps forward to close the poverty gap and provide opportunity for Iowa’s working families by:

  • Boosting education dollars to our K-12 schools through investments in early reading initiatives and quality teaching.
  • Investing in education funding for our universities, community colleges, and grants for students attending private colleges.
  • Investing more than $40 million in apprenticeship training and job retraining at our community colleges.
  • Expanding the First Five program for our youngest children.
  • Spurring Iowa’s economy by attracting more visitors and tourism, as well as young professionals and families to live, to work, and to play in Iowa.
  • Providing safeguards for the most vulnerable Iowans through comprehensive legislative oversight of Governor Branstad’s and Lt. Governor Reynolds’ plan to privatize Iowa’s public health insurance program—Medicaid.  Holding the out of state, for-profit managed care organizations accountable to the taxpayers, to our local providers and to our citizens who rely on this program for their health security is critically important and one of our duties as legislators.
  • Investing in renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, geo-thermal, and biofuels.

 

While this session made progress on a number of fronts, there were missed opportunities passed by the Senate—many with bipartisan support—that the House Republican leaders failed to consider, including:

  • Raising the minimum wage. The Senate passed a modest increase raising the minimum wage to $8.75.  This would have given 181,000 Iowans, most of whom are women and children, a lift out of poverty.  Twenty-nine states have passed a minimum wage higher than the federal limit.  Five of those states share a border with Iowa.
  • Expanding the statewide pre-school program for all four-year old children.
  • Expanding high quality, affordable childcare for Iowa’s families.
  • Equal Pay for Equal Work.

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