Here it is, the start of a new year. For many, this is the time to make resolutions - you know, those promises we all make to ourselves that more often than not, end up by the wayside, forsaken due to a lack of time, too much on our plates, etc. I'll be the first to admit I haven't done the best job of following through on resolutions and I?know I'm not the only one.
I can think of one group that routinely blows off their resolutions, if you can call them that, with complete and utter disregard.
Our legislators - at both the state and national level.
Allow me to explain.
At the state level, this has become crystal clear of late on a local level - our public schools. For the past couple of years, our public schools have been forced to operate with zero "allowable growth" (ie) state funding, because our state lawmakers have neglected? to set a rate of allowable growth.
Here's the broken resolution, if you will - by statute, the Legislature is required to set allowable growth each Fall for the coming school year for Iowa's public schools.
Let me repeat that - Required, by state statute, to set allowable growth.
Guess what didn't happen in the Fall of 2012?
Now, try to set a budget for your school if you get no allowable growth, even when your operating expenses continue to rise at an average of say three percent a year.
Sure, you can develop a budget based on zero allowable growth, but then, you eat into any budget surplus you might have, to pay your bills after your budget comes up short, because the government won't give you any allowable growth.
Why, it wasn't that long ago that the allowable growth turned into a 10 percent cut for school districts. I believe every public school had to tap into their savings that year, because the state had no money.
Oh, by the way, did I?mention that if you run your budget surplus out of money,because the state doesn't give you your money, then you get called before the state and have your hands slapped?
This all seems strange, given reports from our state capitol that the state has a very respectable budget surplus. If that is the case, then why can't our lawmakers do what they are required to do by statute?
That brings up another point - if the lawmakers ignore state statutes, why are there no repercussions against them? If Joe Citizen breaks a law, Joe Citizen is ticketed or fined.
Oh, that's right - lawmakers do no wrong - how could I forget?
Yes, the lack of action on school funding strikes a chord with me, as I've sat in several meetings over the past weeks with school boards looking at options to be able to continue to provide quality education for our youth, with their district's very existence being impacted by the school financing game. You can see the frustration, the apprehension and the sense of anger with our state government over their attitudes toward our rural schools.
But the state isn't just affecting education - the promised redesign of our state's mental health service delivery is in just as much turmoil. There are no rules, no regulations for counties to establish the regions that are described by the redesign, and without the rules, how do these regions operate??How are funds to be distributed?
It's a little tough to play by the rules when there are no rules - that's the message that boards of supervisors are sending to the statehouse.
Will the statehouse listen? Will our lawmakers open their eyes and see that good intentions don't always equal the right way to do things? The old adage of not fixing something if it isn't broken can't even apply - it seems as if everything is broken because of attempts to "fix it better."
Lawmakers run for election on the promise of serving the people - Let's hope that in 2013, they will remember that resolution and do just that - represent the people.