As Governor Terry Branstad officially begins the process of becoming the next U.S. Ambassador to China today with a hearing in the Senate, it’s important to remember the disaster he is leaving behind in Iowa. From a budget left in shambles to underfunded schools and dirty drinking water, he and Lt. Gov. Reynolds have done their best to lift up corporate interests and attack working families.
Here are 11 of the worst failures Gov. Branstad is leaving behind as he starts to hit the road for China:
1. Underfunding Schools: After promising to create the best schools in the nation, the Branstad/Reynolds administration has chronically underfunded schools, picking tax cuts every time. And passing one tax cut after another “has resulted in several hundred million dollars each year cut from the state budget. This has undermined the state’s ability to support quality education, from preschool through public colleges and universities.”
2. Dirty Drinking Water: Thousands of Iowa families are threatened by lead in their drinking water. And the University of Iowa has discovered pesticides. Branstad failed to resolve this during the legislative session, and instead they heard proposals to break up the Des Moines Water Works, whose responsibility it is to provide clean drinking water.
3. War on Women: The Iowa legislature passed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, which would result in cuts in family planning, resulting in “more unintended pregnancies, more risky births, and more teenage mothers. And “cuts to disease prevention will mean more preventable diseases — particularly tobacco related diseases — will not be addressed.”
4. Health Care Debacle: The Branstad/Reynolds administration pushed a Medicaid privatization scheme on the state of Iowa, which patients and providers opposed. It is resulting in complete disaster for our state’s most vulnerable citizens who rely on the program for their health coverage.
5. Stripping Away Workers Rights: After four decades of collective bargaining that worked for Iowa’s public employees, Branstad, Reynolds, and the Iowa legislature stripped away the rights of public workers in Iowa. The historic removal of rights means that working families have had their voices taken away in the workplace.
6. Lowering Wages: No state has waited longer for a minimum wage increase than Iowa. When the state refused to take action, local counties decided to stop the wait and raise the wage. Instead of working with local authorities, the Branstad/Reynolds administration and the Republican-controlled legislature lowered those minimum wages, and took away local authority to make any future increases, the first time any state has taken such action.
7. Last in Mental Health: Iowa ranks last in mental health care, with the Des Moines Register stating that “if the governor is trying to ensure Iowa does a worse job of providing it than any other state, he’s met his objective.”
8. Economy Falling Behind: Despite consistent bluster from the Branstad/Reynolds administration about record-setting corporate tax giveaways, Iowa’s economy ranks just 36th among states, and is lagging behind in job growth, according to Governing magazine.
9. 2nd Worst in Racial Disparities: After serving as Governor longer than anyone in the history of Iowa (or the entire country), Branstad has done nothing to address the fact that black Iowans are “seven times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than white Iowans even though studies show that the two groups use illicit drugs at the same rate.”
10. Budget Mess: Once returning to office, Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds prioritized corporate tax giveaways above any other program, and the results are finally in: the state budget is a mess, leading to shortfalls of hundreds of millions, and devastating cuts to public schools, higher education, and critical public services.
11. Farm Values Falling: Iowa’s farm values are down three years running as Gov. Branstad heads for China, leaving the worst situation for farmers since the crisis of the 1980s.
As Governor Branstad heads for China, he leaves behind a state that is far worse off than when he took office, and unfortunately Lt. Governor Reynolds will likely follow the same failed priorities.