Jones and Johnson Hold Town Hall Meeting in Emmetsburg
Representative Megan Jones and Senator David Johnson met with about 20 concerned citizens to discuss issues that ranged from Iowa’s New Water Quality Law to the judicial system to budget cuts during the first town hall meeting of 2018.
“We began this session on Jan. 8 and on the second day we heard from the governor in her Condition of the State Address,” Representative Jones began. “It was a very positive, powerful speech. Folks were pretty excited about what she had to offer especially for rural Iowa.”
According to Jones initiatives in the speech were really focused on leadership in small towns. Helping small towns to build themselves up and marketing small towns to young people.
“We have a lot to offer in northwest Iowa,” Jones said. “We just kind of need to market it a little more.”
Senator David Johnson began his opening statements by stating that the Governor has called for bipartisanship in the areas of education, water quality and healthcare.
“Medicaid is a Republican plan. Written for Republicans,” Senator Johnson stated. “In the case of water quality, it is a Farm Bureau plan. Written for Farm Bureau. That’s just a fact. We also have a serious decision this week. We are going to whack $52 million out of the current budget.”
One of the first questions posed to Jones and Jonson dealt with Medicaid and nursing home reimbursements. The nursing homes within the area have sent out letters to local churches asking for help with patient care. Sixty percent of residents today are on Medicaid and our state’s current healthcare insurance companies are not reimbursing for medical expenses efficiently enough to cover costs.
According to Johnson this is not only a problem for nursing homes but mental healthcare has also been affected by the new state health MCOs Providers (Managed Care Organization).
“We are in trouble here because former Governor Branstad, decided without legislative input to put the administration of out Medicaid Program under three private insurance companies,” Johnson said. “One of those companies is gone and providers are under a lot of strain. The system is broken and we are making efforts to make changes.”
Palo Alto County attorney Peter Hart brought up the topic of the proposed closure of 30 courthouses around the state.
“In about 1983, the State decided to make Clerk of Courts state employees instead of being elected officials at county level,” Hart began. “However, these state employees are still being funded by the counties. I would like to propose that instead of closing 30 courthouses, look at going back to Clerk of Courts being elected county officials”
Jones did not realize that Clerk of Courts were still funded with county dollars and stated that it only makes sense to settle disputes locally and to make justice a regional item was a mistake.
“Why do we have to make these budget cuts?” Johnson questioned. “I feel that it is a management thing but we can’t keep doing it year after year.”
The question was raised about funding for Iowa’s Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, noting that the current proposal is to increase Iowa’s sales tax by one cent dedicating three-eighths of that cent to Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust, which will leave five-eights of a cent to divide among other programs instead of cutting the budget.
“Farm Bureau is against it and as long as they push, it will go nowhere,” Johnson stated. “It could become part of tax reform. It would be a dedicated tax to a dedicated program that couldn’t be touched for other reasons.”
“I think the Senator is right. It comes down to tax reform,” Jones added. “The Governor is supportive of tax reform, reducing income tax and raising sales tax. Mental health is a top priority and this is a way to fund programs such as this.”
Another top priority is funding for community college. According to Iowa Lakes Community College President Val Newhouse, community colleges must come up with about $252,000 with the proposed budgets cuts and community colleges across the state simply cannot keep doing this. Important to note regarding budget cuts in education, private college were not named in the proposed cut and they receive almost double the amount per student as community colleges.
The next town hall meeting is scheduled for Saturday, March 3.