The president of the state’s largest employee union is speaking out against the first bill Republicans are bringing forward in the Iowa House. The Republicans, who won control in November, say the will cut $500-million from the budget by scaling back or eliminating many programs. AFSCME Council 61 president, Danny Homan, says the measures in the bill will “cut and gut the middle class”, while helping big businesses.
He says it will cut corporate taxes and commercial property taxes while at the same time “cutting services to seniors, the most vulnerable kids, renewable energy, education, small businesses, our state universities and other services that “lift Iowans up to the middle class.” The bill does include cuts for public funding for family planning, passenger rail service and universal pre-school.
Homan was asked if there were any cuts in the bill he would support.
Homan says legislators are talking about limiting sabbaticals for university professors for 18 months. He says he has been against the sabbaticals, because they are taking place while employees have been laid off. Homan says the state needs to look at what type of sabbaticals it will support. He says he is also open to looking at other ways to save money by combining services. One of the proposals in the bill would have state employees pay part of their health insurance. Homan says that should not even be a part of this discussion.
Homan says lawmakers can make a proposal for the next collective bargaining session, but says they have already reached a settlement with the current governor for the next two years and he doesn’t believe that legislators can mandate that union members pay for insurance. The contract was negotiated with outgoing Governor Chet Culver, not incoming Governor Terry Branstad. Homan would not say if the union would be open to making changes on health care in the contract.
“I’m not telling you what I would consider, or wouldn’t consider, the state has the right in the next bargaining to make any proposal they want to us on health insurance. We have the right to accept or reject those proposals,” Homan says. Homan says he does “not bargain in the newspaper” and won’t speculate on what the union will do. He gave the same answer when asked if union members would be willing to reconsider the contract negotiated with Culver if it meant saving jobs.