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Legislative assurances not enough for taxpayers
Jan. 30, 2023 6:00 am
Althea Cole’s column in the Sunday (Jan. 15) Gazette questioned the reasoning behind exempting private schools from receiving public funding. In her argument, she cautions Iowans to be careful what they wish for when it comes to restricting public funds to private institutions, citing other programs offered by the private sector using taxpayer funds including health care, SNAP, housing vouchers, and student financial aid.
However, the programs she names provide services to assist low-income, disadvantaged persons to achieve a better life that the public sector does not offer. Programs that are funded by the public and administered in the private sector must be managed carefully to provide services, avoid harm to those in need, and prevent waste. Accountability is critical to success. Iowans remember the debacle experienced with Medicaid privatization in Iowa. Although improved, it’s far from perfect. Ask recipients.
In a 2012 property tax reform plan, the Iowa Legislature guaranteed municipalities to offset the loss experienced when commercial property taxes were overhauled. The Legislature’s promise to backfill municipalities’ tax loss was abruptly halted years before the expected date, forcing cities to increase taxes.
Taxpayers have no reason to believe assurances the Legislature makes. Lost trust is hard to regain. Legislation titled Student First Act or private school vouchers is another issue that could quickly go awry. The new law does not include transparency or accountability standards for oversight.
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