On Monday, lawmakers returned to the state Capitol for the start of the 2018 session.

It’s a busy first week as leaders outline their priorities and we also hear from the governor, chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, and leader of the Iowa National Guard.

This session, House Democrats believe it’s time for the legislature to work together and get back to the basics.  That means focusing our efforts on good jobs and boosting our skilled workforce.  It means renewing our commitment to public schools. And it means working together to make health care both more affordable and accessible. 

It’s our job to make life better for Iowans and their families, not make it more difficult.

Fix the budget mess

The first order of business this year is to fix the state budget. After years of mismanagement from GOP politicians, the state budget has gone from a $900 million surplus to a $259 million deficit.  Last year, GOP lawmakers and Reynolds spent more than the state took in and put $130 million on the state’s credit card to balance the state budget. At the same time, they raised tuition for Iowa students and increased property taxes. 

House Democrats will work this session to protect the taxpayers of Iowa and restore fiscal discipline.  We don’t believe Iowans should be forced to clean up the budget mess and we will work to hold both the majority party and the governor accountable.

Jobs, education and a skilled workforce

   There is bi-partisan agreement that we’ve got to take steps to grow our workforce. Iowa businesses want better trained workers.  Iowans want to improve their incomes by furthering their education. At no time in our state’s history has the need for education and training after high school been more important. 

While I’m optimistic we can make progress together, Iowans understand we’ll never fill the skilled worker shortage we face if we keep raising tuition and putting higher education out of reach for Iowa families. We also have to invest in our public schools to make sure they have the tools to train the next generation of workers.

House Democrats believe it’s time for the legislature to renew our commitment to public schools and keep training after high school affordable for all so we can grow our skilled workforce.

Health care

Over the last few years, the health care system in Iowa has deteriorated rapidly and nowhere is that more apparent than Medicaid privatization. Iowans are getting less care and have fewer options today than ever before.  Some health care providers have closed and others are going bankrupt because they aren’t getting paid. 

The good news is Reynolds and GOP lawmakers are finally admitting Medicaid privatization is failing. The bad news is Reynolds plans to cut another $10 million from Medicaid and refuses to fix the system.  

House Democrats believe it’s time to end Medicaid privatization. It’s also time for the legislature to fix our broken mental health system by training more mental health professionals; developing a community-based, comprehensive treatment approach that includes substance abuse disorders; and fixing the way we fund our system that penalizes rural counties with higher rates than urban counties. 

Over the next 100 days, we look forward to a productive session. If we work together, we can make life better for Iowans this year.

State Representative Mark Smith of Marshalltown serves the 71st District in the Iowa House and is the Iowa House Democratic Leader.

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