Gov. Kim Reynolds hardly mentioned the names of President Joe Biden or Democrats in Washington as she delivered her Condition of the State address Tuesday.
But yet, many of the major policy announcements she made Tuesday rely on funds created not by Reynolds, her Republican legislature, or fellow party members of the U.S. Congress. Instead, they were created by Biden's legislative agenda and approved without the help of Republicans.
— She's giving a $1,000 retention bonus to teachers. That comes from the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief funds, created by Biden's American Rescue Plan Act.
— Law enforcement and corrections officers will also receive a $1,000 bonus — paid for by ARPA funds.
— To help grow the state's pool of future teachers, Reynolds will spend $9 million for a new teacher and paraeducator apprenticeship program. The program will accelerate the pathway for students to earn a paraeducator certificate and associates degree, and those who are already paraeducators can work toward a bachelor's degree. How is she paying for this? ESSER funds via the American Rescue Plan Act.
— Reynolds celebrated a one-of-a-kind program in Pella, where high school students were offered an apprenticeship program in conjunction with a local nursing home and hospital. Students received real-world work experience and are able to become a certified nursing assistant before their graduation. She announced a new grant for Iowa high schools to bring this program to other parts of the state. Yep, that money comes from ARPA, too.
And these announcements from Tuesday are hardly Iowa's first use of ARPA funds. Some other uses include $200 million for broadband, $30 million for programs to address workforce shortages, $100 million for water infrastructure and conservation, and $100 million for housing initiatives. Yesterday, she announced $36.6 million in child care grants across the state. All of this money comes from ARPA.
This heavy usage comes after Reynolds didn't support the legislation (neither did Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Ashley Hinson nor Randy Feenstra, or U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst or Chuck Grassley). While the Reynolds administration doesn't completely hide the fact they use ARPA funds for its accomplishments, they certainly do the bare minimum to acknowledge the legislation's impacts. We feel it's important to put the credit where it is actually due: ARPA has given Iowa the tools to take on many of these programs.
Iowa Republicans say the state's more than $1 billion surplus is the result of their fantastic fiscal management and conservatism. Sure, selective spending led to balanced budgets. But it'd be foolish to disregard the impact of federal dollars into the state's fiscal health. Most states are seeing fuller financial coffers thanks to the Biden Administration — Iowa among them. Additionally, the uncertainties of the pandemic led to more conservative and cautionary forecasts: things simply turned out better than analysts originally hoped.
Other federal aid programs, like the CARES Act signed into law by President Donald Trump, also helped take spending off the state's shoulders.
Iowa law also mandates good financial stewardship, thanks to a 1992 law passed by Democrats that requires the legislature to spend no more than 99% of the state's revenues.
The bottom line is, Iowa Republicans are quick to take credit but there's more to the story here.