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Rep. Chris Hall

Chris Hall

Rep. Pat Grassley’s guest column (Courier, June 24) is long on rhetoric but short on reality about the GOP’s budget priorities.

First, he crows about raising Medicaid reimbursement rates for providers but doesn’t mention the GOP’s disastrous Medicaid privatization plan that is leaving Iowans without health care and forcing providers to close their doors. The paltry increase won’t make up for the major losses suffered by local hospitals under Medicaid privatization, let alone cover the outstanding bills the private companies have refused to pay.

To underscore the point, the $1.5 million increase he mentions represents 0.00019 percent of the state budget. It’s unworthy of bragging, and an unfortunate insult to the families impacted by privatization.

While minor changes on mental health were made this year, Iowans should know the changes won’t make up for the two mental health hospitals closed by Republicans a few years ago that deepened the mental health crisis. The state has to do more than just identify Iowans who need assistance and scoop dollars from one system to pay for another. The mental health services must be available.

Although the Legislature did work together to expand worker training programs, tuition is still on the rise at Iowa’s 15 community colleges, and students who attend our state universities are graduating with record high levels of debt. Lost in the shuffle is the fact Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration is rejecting financial aid for the high-demand jobs identified by each community college, including critical fields like nursing.

Probably the most glaring omission in Grassley’s editorial is this: The wealthiest 1% got a massive tax break from the GOP that dwarfs the combined price tag of the priorities he outlined. The small number of Iowans who make over $500,000 get a new $109 million tax break this year, which is three times more than all of the health care and education priorities outlined by Grassley.

The sad truth is Reynolds and her Republican colleagues have moved millionaires, corporations and other special interests to the front of the budget line and left the remaining scraps for health care and education. They’ve given the bank away, even borrowing from our reserves to help pay for it.

House Democrats believe the budget should work for everyday Iowans. We can raise wages, make sure every kid gets a great education, and expand access to affordable health care while keeping the state budget balanced.

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Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, is ranking member of the Iowa House Appropriations Committee.

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