I know a lot of really good people from Kansas. I even lived in Kansas for a couple of years when I was a little kid. My father made an attempt to be a Kansas State football fan, but it didn’t stick. By all accounts, the people of Kansas are kind hard-working folks. In 2010 they decided to elect a Republican named Sam Brownback to be their governor along with a bunch of his cronies who promised to have a “real live experiment” with economic policies that would cut taxes for wealthy Kansans and big businesses, while also slashing spending on education, social services, and later privatizing the entire state Medicaid system. It was said by reporters at the time that, “it may be the boldest agenda of any governor in the nation.” It was bold. It has also been a dismal failure by all accounts.
State revenues in Kansas plummeted by nearly $700 million in one year, their credit rating was downgraded, and job growth sagged behind all of their neighbors. In addition to the economic disaster that Kansas is facing, in 2014 the Kansas legislature passed a law that reduced due process for teachers who faced dismissal. The end result is that Kansas faces a massive teacher shortage at a time when schools ending their school years early due to insufficient funding.
So Iowans, why does this matter? Well, does any of what is happening in Kansas sound familiar? Can you think of a state where a Republican Governor and a Republican legislature are enacting massive tax cuts for big businesses while simultaneously forcing schools and other public services into austerity? Yeah, it’s happening. We are only a couple of years away from having our friends from Kansas look over at us and say, “weren’t you watching this train wreck going on over here?”
The thing is, we’ve seen the results of the “live experiment.” It failed. It failed miserably, and statehouse Republicans like Kevin Koester, Jake Highfill, Peter Cownie, and Chris Hagenow have voted time and time again to implement the “Kansas Experiment” right here in Iowa. They are running the exact same game plan, except they aren’t even proud enough to sell it to us. To the credit of Brownback he was proud of what he was doing and hyped it at every opportunity. Our local legislators in Iowa seem disinterested in discussing how they think “trick-down” economics is going to work in Iowa. During debates on educational spending these guys can’t be found anywhere except when asked to vote the party line on under-funding our schools. Then they have the audacity to run advertising that they have supported public schools during their terms. Iowans, we can’t be that stupid. We remember what Governor Branstad did on July 2, 2015 (the last possible day he could veto $56 million in school funding, 45 minutes before the start of a holiday weekend). They want us to forget what they have done over the last several years to our public institutions. They want us to look away from the fact that the reason revenues are falling is because big businesses are getting big fat tax cuts. I’m a middle class guy and it doesn’t feel like my taxes have gone down, how about you? But they are going down for someone.
Iowans must stand up and vote on Tuesday. If Iowa elects a Republican statehouse on Tuesday, we might as well buckle in for some of that “Kansas Experiment” excitement. Less support for our public schools, less resources for public mental health care, less dollars for our natural resources. The good news is that the Wells Ice Cream dynasty will have several more million dollars in their pockets to fund Bob VanderPlaats and his exciting agenda for taking Iowa back to the 1850’s.
We have to vote. You have to vote for candidates like Heather Matson, Maridith Morris, Claire Celsi, and Jennifer Konfrst, who will focus on insuring that Iowa’s schools will be a priority. They will insure that our natural resources are protected. They will also insure that Iowa’s tax laws are built to empower our middle class. We have to vote.
Read up on what Kansas has gone through over the last 5 years and if it looks good to you, by all means vote for Iowa to undertake that path, but if you look at Kansas and realize that we have an opportunity to turn the train around and build Iowa around strong public schools, beautiful natural resources, and a robust middle class, then you have to vote for progressive new leadership who share our Iowa values.