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Friday, May 1, 2020

Freeze Government Salaries

Families are forced to make tough financial decisions regularly, and our state leaders will have to do the same when they return to the Statehouse. While it’s extremely hard to predict the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on state revenues, it is clear that the state will need to tighten its belt regardless of the severity of the financial impact. 

One possible solution to help the state save money is reducing personnel costs.  

Typically, when states, or private businesses for that matter, face extreme financial difficulty, they consider measures like hiring freezes, suspending scheduled compensation increases, adjusting retirement contributions, or offering early retirement options.   

Actions such as these have been taken before in Iowa.  

Governor Chet Culver, in reaction to the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, froze many personnel vacancies and temporary job openings. While some state workers were laid off at that time, numerous others agreed to unpaid furloughs and retirement plan changes to stave off as many layoffs as possible. Going back further, Culver’s predecessor, Governor Tom Vilsack, took the step of postponing scheduled pay increases for state employees in an effort to save money in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.    

What should be the first step Iowa takes?  

Serious consideration must be given to forgoing the hiring of new state workers. By not replacing departing employees unless absolutely necessary, the state could hold onto critically-needed dollars. All new hire requests should have to be approved by the Director of the Department of Management in order to ensure that those hires are absolutely necessary.  

Other states have already taken this action. Governors of both political parties have recently utilized the common-sense measure of a hiring freeze. Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Democrat governor, and Mike DeWine, Ohio’s Republican governor, each instituted hiring freezes in their respective states as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Unfortunately, some private sector companies in Iowa have already been forced to cut current employee salaries or lay off workers entirely:
Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation announced that it would be cutting the salaries of about 60% of its 5,000 employees. 

VGM Group in Waterloo eliminated 58 full-time jobs and offered transfers, extended furloughs, or early retirement packages to another 17 workers.

Salaries have been reduced and the 401K match program has been suspended at Arconic Corporation in Davenport.

Winnebago Industries in Forest City laid off 79 employees and adjusted the salaries of other employees.
A decision to hold the line on employee costs would help free up state money to address other potential budget shortfalls, and it is still more generous than the alternatives faced by many private-sector workers.  

Alternatively, legislators could choose to raise taxes on hardworking Iowans and exacerbate the financial hardships they’re facing during these difficult times or cut services upon which many Iowans may be reliant. Taking the steps of freezing wages and salaries, for the time being, could also be a way to help prevent the state from having to lay off workers and add to the number of unemployed Iowans. 

There are no easy answers when budget reductions loom, but managing employee costs wherever possible is a good start at helping create greater financial certainty in upcoming budget discussions.
 
Click to Email the Governor and Your Legislators

How bad is the economic impact?

How will the coronavirus preventative measures impact Iowa's economy?

To provide some answers to that timely question, TEF Iowa is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, May 6 at 1:00 p.m.

Creighton University's Dr. Ernie Goss and University of Nebraska-Omaha adjunct professor Scott Strain are co-authors of a new series of reports that model unemployment, economic activity, and tax receipts in Iowa as a result of the pandemic. Goss and Strain will present the findings of their first report during the webinar.

Register for the webinar here.

Reopening Iowa: Georgia's approach is worth monitoring

The State of Georgia was the first state to allow some businesses closed because of COVID-19 to reopen. An op-ed written by ITR President Chris Ingstad and Georgia Public Policy Foundation Kyle Wingfield and published by the Des Moines Register says Iowa should monitor how Georgia's approach works.

Governor Kim Reynolds must balance legitimate economic concerns with equally legitimate health and safety concerns.  This means businesses should not be evaluated solely by how essential they are, but also by their ability to protect the health of their employees and customers.

Will there be new cases as restrictions are lifted? Unfortunately, there will be. But that would have been true whenever these restrictions are lifted unless we choose to wait for the entire population to be vaccinated. Estimates put the development, testing, and deployment of a vaccine for the coronavirus at more than one year away.

So, when is the right time to reopen Iowa? It is too early to tell in the Hawkeye State. Unfortunately, spikes of the virus are still occurring in a handful of communities. Reopening too soon could render the past five weeks in vain.

Iowans need to remain patient until the curve is in fact flattened. Meanwhile, our leaders will have to answer difficult questions, such as how unemployment benefits will be handled for high-risk employees who are fearful of returning to work.

Once the spread has slowed and medical providers are confident they are prepared to handle what comes next though, Iowa must be ready to move on. Studying the approach Georgia is taking will be helpful.

Read the entire article here

Links of Interest

Governor's Decision to Ease Restrictions
- Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver

May 15th new target date for 2020 Iowa legislature to reconvene
- Radio Iowa

Coronavirus may derail Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' tax-swap plan
- Cedar Rapids Gazette

Some Small Businesses Can Re-Open May 1st
- NFIB

COVID-19 Impacts Ag Economy
- TEF Iowa

Coronavirus Tax Relief Resources
- Internal Revenue Service

In Case You Missed It

Getting back on track

Getting our economic train back on the tracks
Deregulation can fuel recovery
Expanding educational opportunities with 529 expansion
Potential property tax increases?

ITR Asks Congress to Fix the Federal CARES Act
Iowans Are Hurting
Telehealth House Calls
Government tracking citizens

Is Government Tracking You
A Roadmap Back to Normal
Exposed and vulnerable

How exposed is Iowa's economy?
Protect Your Money from Scams
Even Logos are Distancing
It’s easy for politicians to yield to noisy special interest groups when the taxpayer keeps quietly paying the bills.
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