Dengler Domain: The ball don’t lie

Sean Dengler.

In Governor Kim Reynolds 2022 campaign ad, it ends with the words “Here in Iowa…America Still Works.” Does it? What version of American is Kim Reynolds envisioning? Her vision appears increasingly to be one where people at the bottom of the economic totem pole are stiffed while the top end gets more benefits.

If she gets her way this legislative session, AEAs services would be severely cut back. Her original idea was only to provide special education services which already accounts for 73% of AEAs budgets according to Cindy Yelick, the chief administrator of the Heartland AEA who spoke with the Iowa Capital Dispatch. After the initial pushback on her desire to cut services, she offered an amendment to allow the AEAs to continue to offer other services though this amendment has not yet dropped.

This potential problem is the cherry on top of the school voucher law which harms public schools and lower income Iowans at the expense of those at the higher end of the tax brackets. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, nearly two-thirds of the nearly 17,000 Iowa students who received taxpayer-funded financial assistance to attend a private K-12 school this year already were attending private school. The program will cost the state $127.3 million in the first year, exceeding the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency which estimated it would cost the state $107 million.

This comes on the heels of Governor Reynolds saying she will not support the 2024 Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children because it is not sustainable. The program would cost Iowa an estimated $2.2 million according to the AP, but she is okay with overspending $20 million to funnel to private schools.

Take on the continuing consolidation of agriculture with 1,100 less farms in 2021 than in 2018, when Governor Reynolds took office. Farms with sales classes between $1,000-499,999 lost 900 farms while farms with sales classes $500,000 and above gained 200 farms according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Like her other policies, the wealthier are getting wealthier by removing small farmers from their communities. Leaving less farmers on the land and less wealth in each community.

Then comes Iowa’s child care issues whether the lack of work force or affordability. Instead of incentivizing higher pay for workers, Governor Reynolds in 2022 signed a law allowing 16 and 17 years olds to care for school-aged children without additional supervision and now the state legislature wants to expand these unsupervised younger workers to supervise with babies. To her credit, she announced, in December 2023, a final round of Covid-era stipends for licensed and registered child care providers, including Child Care Centers and Child Development Homes, which award amounts from $10,000 to $50,000 based on program size. This is all funded by the American Rescue Plan Act CCDF Supplemental Discretionary funding brought to Iowans by President Joe Biden.

Speaking of Joe and according to the White House’s website, his Bipartisan Infrastructure law which Senator Chuck Grassley also voted for has provided $1.5 billion for roads, bridges, roadway safety, and major projects, to a state which has 4,571 bridges and over 403 miles of highway are in poor condition. This bill has also provided the state $5 million through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program to help provide access to high-speed internet across the state.

Iowa has also received approximately $88.9 million in 2022 and 2023 for its airports included in this is the Eastern Iowa Airport Terminal Modernization Program. Through the guidance of the Biden administration, they have helped make the Sustainable Aviation Fuel market for ethanol producers and Iowa corn farmers. While the politics of corn ethanol can be discussed another day, this gives another way for Iowa corn farmers and landowners another market to support their pocketbooks.

The question remains. Does Governor Reynolds vision of America work best for Iowans or is President Biden’s vision of America working best for Iowans? As for Governor Reynolds who was an accomplished six on six basketball player, the ball don’t lie.

Sean Dengler is a writer, comedian, farmer, and host of the Pandaring Talk podcast who grew up on a farm between Traer and Dysart. You can reach him at sean.h.dengler@gmail.com.