Iowa can't afford tax cuts, governor.
But that pesky fact isn't deterring Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is desperate to cut income taxes before her re-election bid in November.
Late last year, Reynolds initiated a legally questionable budgetary maneuver to plug gaps in this year's budget. This past week, ruling Republicans in Iowa Senate did Reynolds one better, with a proposal that would slash $52 million in previously appropriated cash for Iowa's public universities and other critical services.
The $19.2 million mid-year take-back from Iowa's four universities approved last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee would be four-times what Reynolds proposed.
For fiscal year 2019, Reynolds' executive budget proposed a 1.5 percent increase in K-12 funding, a figure well below inflation. The bludgeoning of Iowa's court system would continue, with some officials saying more than two-dozen local courts could close because of the GOP's slash-and-burn approach to government.
As if there wasn't enough absurdity already, Reynolds' has also proposed axing another $10 million from Iowa's failing Medicaid program.
Yet, somehow, Reynolds and legislative Republicans have deluded themselves into thinking Iowa is in a position to cut taxes. It's a ready-made recipe for deficit spending and another round of mid-year cuts.
So much for the party of fiscal responsibility.
The crux of all this -- the recent federal tax cuts -- could pump tens of millions of new money into Iowa's coffers. But Reynolds, instead, wants to pour it into another round of tax cuts. Make no mistake, there's a strong argument for paring back "federal deductibility" in Iowa. But rolling it out in a single year, amid continued mid-year cuts and across-the-board service reductions is neither prudent nor responsible.
That cash, $106 million in 2019, could go toward righting Iowa's unjust school funding formula, which designates some district as second class. It could keep tuition flat at Iowa's universities, once centers of bipartisan pride. It could provide relief for counties struggling with jails serving as mental health facilities. It could bolster Medicaid. It could pay for legitimate water quality legislation that actually applies science to test the outcomes. It could maintain local courts, cultural centers small towns throughout the state.
That money could pay for a lot of things that Iowa has left to rot.
Unfortunately, it won't. Instead, the influx will likely gush out just as fast as it came in, funding a tax cut that, by every objective measure, the state cannot afford.
To make matters worse, the cuts Reynolds' proposed seem just a starting point for lawmakers to do her one better.
This is the flaw of single-party dominance -- where the fringe is elevated and reason is sacrificed to dogma.
Commodity prices remain depressed. A recent string of tax cuts under Reynolds' predecessor, Terry Branstad, left Iowa cash-poor. Uncertainty surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement, which President Donald Trump is renegotiating, isn't helping, either. And a weakened NAFTA could cost American agriculture dearly.
Iowa is broke. Its agencies are scrambling. Its educational system is bleeding. Medicaid is a shameful mess. And mental health services are wholly inadequate.
Reynolds and legislative Republicans are determined to see that it stays that way.