DES MOINES — Pending federal action will have significant impacts on health care and the renewable fuels industry in Iowa.
Gov. Kim Reynolds will be in the nation’s capital next week, where she will have an audience with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss those issues, the governor said Tuesday.
“We’re working on both fronts,” Reynold said Tuesday at her weekly news conference at the Iowa Capitol. “I can do both issues at one time and I have to do both issues because it’s really important for the state of Iowa and for Iowans.”
Iowa is awaiting word whether the federal government will approve its waiver request to tweak its use of federal health care dollars to help make insurance options more affordable for some low-income Iowans in 2018. The state submitted what officials call the stopgap proposal in June.
President Donald Trump in August told a top federal health care official to reject the proposal after reading about it in a newspaper article, the Washington Post recently reported.
State officials say they have remained in constant contact with the federal administration, working to get approval.
“We’re in touch with the White House almost every single day regarding the stopgap proposal,” Reynolds said.
The ruling will impact health insurance options in 2018 for roughly 72,000 Iowans. If the stopgap proposal is not approved, costs could spike enough to make insurance too expensive for more than 20,000 Iowans, the state has estimated. If the proposal is approved, it could face legal challenges because it strays from how the federal Affordable Care Act was written.
Reynolds said she plans to discuss the stopgap plan with federal officials, including the vice president, while in Washington, D.C. She does not have a meeting planned with Trump.
Reynolds said she also will discuss the federal Renewable Fuels Standard with Pence and Scott Pruitt, director of the Environmental Protection Agency, during her trip.
The EPA is considering lowering the amount of biofuels that are required for production, which state renewable fuels officials say would hurt the industry and tangentially the state’s agricultural economy.
“The RFS has an impact on Iowans as well, on our economy,” Reynolds said. “Especially as we’ve seen the volatility in commodity prices. It’s really, really important now that we don’t do one more thing to really impact commodity prices (which will impact) farmers and families across the state of Iowa and the Midwest.”
In the case of the renewable fuels, Reynolds is striving to preserve a program Trump pledged to support during his 2016 campaign.
“They need to follow through with what they told us when they were campaigning and what they promised that they would do to support the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Reynolds said. “And we’re not going to let up.”
Job training top priority
A state program designed to ensure 70 percent of Iowa’s eligible workforce has post-high school education or training by 2025 is the administration’s top priority, Reynolds said.
She said her budget proposal will include funding for scholarship and grant programs for the program called Future Ready Iowa.
“This is the No. 1 priority of our administration,” Reynolds said. “It’s necessary. It’s critical.”
Reynolds said how much state funding she will propose will depend upon revenue estimates that will be published in the coming months. When a reporter asked whether her proposal will be closer to $5 million or $30 million for the scholarships and grants, Reynolds said, “Somewhere in between.”
The scholarship and grant programs were among recommendations made Tuesday by Future Ready Iowa officials.
The other recommendations are to improve and expand support for Iowans who are completing college or career training; expand internships and apprenticeships in high-demand careers; identify early education tools that prepare students for a changing economy; and create collaborations between businesses and regional workforce and education groups.