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Expansion of Medicaid in Iowa is necessary

Published: Friday, March 1, 2013 11:38 a.m. CDT

I was pleasantly surprised this week at the number of visitors who came to the Capitol.  We’ve had terrible, and unexpected, snow conditions all over the state.  Nevertheless, thousands of visitors from various groups and organizations came to lobby their legislators. On Tuesday and Wednesday, many Iowans came to push the Governor to expand health care to 150,000 Iowans who don’t have private health insurance.  Members of AARP and doctors from across the state spent the day talking to lawmakers about the health and financial benefits of expanding Medicaid.

Unfortunately, Governor Branstad is still opposed to an expansion of affordable health care after meeting with federal officials.  Instead, the Governor wants to continue another program, called Iowa Care.  It really isn’t a good solution because 8,900 Iowans who now have health care would lose it.  90,000 Iowans still wouldn’t have health care, and it would cost Iowa well over $200 million in the next three years alone.  Fortunately, the Iowa Senate is moving a bill to expand Medicaid.  But unless the Governor gets behind Medicaid expansion, many Iowans stand to lose.

This week, the budget process took a few steps forward.   Leaders from both parties set spending limits, also referred to as “targets”, for each of the seven budget subcommittees that craft the different parts of the state budget.  These subcommittees include Administration & Regulation, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Economic Development, Education, Health & Human Services, Justice System, and Transportation.  Each of these subcommittees will now build their specific budget and send it to the full Appropriations Committee of the House or Senate before it goes to the floor.

We must develop a balanced budget which meets the needs of Iowans while finding cost saving reductions.  My goal working through this process is to craft a balanced state budget that will strengthen Iowa’s middle class as well as provide for our seniors and children.

I serve as Ranking Member on the Administration & Regulations Budget Subcommittee.  While the overall budget is still a work in progress, the Administration & Regulation target numbers indicate our subcommittee is coming together towards agreement better than the other six subcommittees. 

Perhaps, this will be a good starting point for compromise on the overall budget.  It’s time to build consensus on a budget that can win approval from the House, Senate and the Governor.  As we continue to work on the budget, I’m also keeping a close eye on the federal budget showdown in Washington, referred to as “sequester.”  While the total impact on Iowa or the state budget in Des Moines isn’t clear yet, it certainly isn’t going to help improve Iowa’s economy or put anyone back to work.  In fact, it’s likely it will have a negative impact.

Our Congressman, Dave Loebsack, shares this concern.  His leadership is a bright spot in this difficult situation in Washington.  Dave and I both understand sequester will have an immediate impact on Iowa unless Congressional leaders put partisanship aside.  Local schools could lose federal funds, 1,300 kids will fall behind in vaccinations, and key job placement services will be cut back.  Even the control towers at many of Iowa’s smaller airports could close. 

While I can’t make Congress work together and reach agreement, I will make sure that partisanship and bickering doesn’t make its way to the State Capitol, at least not in my work.

In closing this week, please participate in a survey being conducted by the Newton Parks Commission before March 8.  I am a former member of this volunteer group.   While serving on this commission, I learned about the tremendous effort that goes into maintaining our great city park system.  You can find the survey at www.newtongov.org.   Printed copies are available at all city offices, the Newton Public Library, and several local businesses.  The information gathered will help the commission identify priorities and plan ahead.  Call the park office at (641) 792-1470 with questions about the survey.

I’m proud to represent Newton, Colfax, Baxter, Mingo, Kellogg, Prairie City, Lambs Grove, Ira, and Valeria.  Feel free to contact me anytime at 641-521-9260 or dan.kelley@legis.iowa.gov.

Visit my website at www.electkelley.com.  ‘Friend’ me on Facebook and ‘follow’ me on Twitter.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

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