Opinion: In Defense of the Governor’s Veto of the Food Bank Bill
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Editor's note: Two weeks ago, Cedar Falls Patch printed an opinion by Iowa Sentaor Jeff Danileson, which expressed dismay with Governor Terry Branstad's veto of a bill related to funding food banks. Here is a response by Cedar Falls City Council member Nick Taiber. He would like it known that he is not representing the city in this piece.
Nick Taiber: Op-Ed in In Defense of the Governor’s Veto of the Food Bank Bill
Many great people have dedicated their lives and talents to address the issue of hunger in Iowa. In the Cedar Valley, the Northeast Iowa Food Bank is staffed by great professionals and supported by the generosity of charitable donors including individuals, corporations, churches, foundations, and more, giving their time, money, and talents to the cause. By every standard, it is a shining example of a non-governmental agency that can properly harnesses the charitable desires of its contributors.
Senator Danielson recently introduced a bill to indirectly support food banks through the State of Iowa Department of Human Services. To the casual observer, this seems like a good thing. Some would say it is the moral thing to do. So why would Governor Branstad veto this bill? Why would it receive bipartisan support from elected officials?
Too often, political soft balls are lobbed to the governor so legislators can say they “did something” in otherwise “do nothing” years. And who could oppose a bill that provides food for the hungry? It makes convenient fodder for op-eds and divisive campaign slogans for anyone opposed. But to credit the governor, he didn’t swing at the pitch.
The Governor understands the role of government. It isn’t a charity; it is the back stop of last resort. Government must take in order to give. If government is going to give, it must pick and choose among numerous qualified causes. It must select agencies, churches, or individuals. Secular, non-secular, faith-based and so on. It must tax. Charity is best left to individuals – where they can make funding decisions based on their own principles and morals.
The chief concern with this bill is the lack of analysis. Danielson pulls a few figures and proposes spending millions (which was whittled down to $500,000). This kind of legislative recklessness is a cause for concern. Political soft balls make for good campaign claims, but they lack legislative integrity, analysis, and policy basis.
Before involving government, we need to do a thorough assessment of hunger in Iowa. Are other government and non-government agencies striving to fill the hunger gap? Are food bank shelves bare? What is the role of existing federal programs such as SNAP (food stamps), National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Summer Food Service Program, the Seamless Summer Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program?
There are tremendous resources ready to fill the hunger gap when called. I’m talking about the thousands of Iowans, corporations, and foundations that donate time, money, and talent to their food banks, church meals, and other food relief agencies.
However, the legislature wants to play Robin Hood to take from taxpayers, churn the money through the vast state bureaucracy before it trickles down to local food banks. There’s a better way to serve hunger needs. Support your local food bank directly with your time, money, and talent. As Iowans, we are resourceful, we are caring, and we are giving. The more agencies rely on government, the more they become it, and so the welfare state will continue to grow.