From August to September, nonfarm employment in Iowa lost a net total of 4,800 jobs. The sectors of the economy that experienced the biggest hits were government, trade/transportation and business services. If there is anything positive to take away from the latest report, it is that Iowa’s manufacturing sector showed a slight increase adding 600 jobs in the last month.
If one thing is clear, it is that the policies of the last four years implemented by Governor Culver and legislative Democrats have not worked. Big government spending programs are not the answer to Iowa’s ailing economy. House Republicans pledge to pass pro-growth policies like cutting taxes and burdensome red tape on Iowa employers so they have the certainty they need to invest in and expand their operations, enabling them to hire workers.
Accordingly, earlier this week Speaker-Elect Kraig Paulsen announced the 84th General Assembly Committee Chairmen who will work to craft policies to enable the private sector to put Iowans back to work.
The seven committees that will lead the charge to turn Iowa’s economy around are: Agriculture, Commerce, Economic Growth/Rebuild Iowa, Labor, State Government, Transportation and Ways & Means.
With the negotiations between the state and the labor unions representing state employees set to get under way, the new administration will have the first crack at stemming the growing disparity in pay and benefits between state employees and private sector employees.
According to the Legislative Services Agency (LSA), the average state employee earns 140 percent of the average private sector employee. That number escalates dramatically when benefits are factored in.
One idea that has been proposed by House Republicans would be to have state employees pay a small monthly premium for their health insurance. In many cases, employees pay nothing other than co-pays for a single or family plan. Adding a $50 per month fee for every health insurance plan would save the taxpayers $17.8 million in general fund dollars, many millions more in all funds.
During the 2009 session, House Republicans offered an amendment to achieve this but it was rejected by the Democrat majority. The logic behind $50 per month is that many low-income Iowa families pay $20 to $40 per month for the premiums to belong to the HAWK-I health insurance program. If low-income families can pay a small premium, certainly state employees earning 140 percent of their private sector counterparts can afford it as well. The hope is that the incoming administration will put this on the table during the round of negotiations currently getting under way. The unions will oppose such a move but it is possible that in the end they will negotiate on it instead of face it by legislation or executive order.
Meetings are getting underway in anticipation of the coming legislative year. There are many new faces! There are nine new Senators and 28 new House members! I hope that the incoming legislature and Governor are able to impact Iowa in a way that benefits our great residents of this state!
State Rep. Betty De Boef