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Northwest Iowa lawmakers reports

With just three weeks away from the first legislative deadline, when a number of bills must be passed out of committee, week five of the 2011 Iowa General Assembly was again filled with committee meetings, sub-committee meetings, and floor debate in the Iowa House. Information on all the bills, amendments, and floor action can be found on the Iowa General Assembly web at:

Does 0% Allowable Growth Mean Spending $216 Million Next Year?

On February 7th, the House voted to approve $216 million in new state funding for school districts in FY12. The bill, House File 185, set allowable growth at 0% for FY12 and FY13. The bill also stops placing more financial burden onto the property tax payers that has been done over the last 3 years by underfunding education and the across the board cuts.

A 0% allowable growth rate that increases funding may raise an eyebrow at first glance. Doesn’t zero mean zero? In most cases it does, but not in the case of allowable growth for FY12. Previous unmet commitments and the replacement of money that is no longer available put the state in a big hole requiring the state to spend money just to get back to zero.

The numbers are laid out fairly simply. Last year’s legislature established a 2% allowable growth but then proceeded to underfund the state’s commitment by $156.1 million. In addition, they used $47.9 million in federal stimulus funds and transferred $5.1 in from the Underground Storage Tank fund, both of which are no longer available. In addition to these, the school’s funding formula has calculated a $7 million increase at 0% allowable growth. Combined these total the $216 million increase. Over the last three years, these and similar activities have resulted in $450 million of additional property taxes. In addition, Iowa faces a $700 million difference between revenues and spending, forcing many budget cuts in state government.

The legislature is required by law to set allowable growth 18 months in advance. FY12’s allowable growth should have been set last year, but last year’s legislature chose to not comply with this law. The House Republicans are being honest with the taxpayers and school districts this year and are putting an end to this unfair practice. Over-promising, under-delivering, and making midyear across the board cuts has not been fair to our schools.

 It is worth noting that if the previous legislature had met their obligation and fully funded the 2% allowable growth they promised, the $216 million needed to backfill last year’s underfunding for FY12 would be equal to roughly a 6.5% allowable growth rate. The bill will now go to the Senate for further consideration.

The House Republican Budget Aligns Spending with Ongoing Revenue

On February 10, the House Republicans announced their proposed FY 2012 budget targets. Like Governor Branstad, the House Republicans are proposing a budget that will fulfill the campaign promise to align ongoing spending with ongoing revenue. This is in sharp contrast to the last four years when ongoing revenue was not sufficient to cover all of the increased spending.

The FY 2011 budget, approved by last year’s legislative and the Governor spent $6.35 billion. This includes $872 million in expenditure shifts, which are general fund expenditures that were funded by one-time and other funds. For FY 2012, Governor Branstad’s is recommending general fund expenditures of just over $6.1 billion, or a decrease of $185 million compared to last year. This is the first budget proposal in five years to align ongoing revenue with ongoing spending.

The House Republicans agree with the Governor that the budget must be transparent, honest, sustainable, and that we do not spend more than we take in. The proposed budget accomplishes those goals. These budget goals will not be easily achieved without difficult work being done to eliminate unnecessary and duplicative programs and spending. But this work must be done in order to ensure the state has the ability to better fund the priorities like taking care of our most needy, keeping the public safe, and education. House Republicans also believe the Iowa taxpayers should finally have a seat at the table and be fiscally responsible with your tax money.

Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress Plan Will Enhance Economic Growth

Governor Branstad has released his proposal to reorganize the current Department of Economic Development. The new plan, called the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress, creates a new public-private collaboration. The Economic Progress Authority is the ‘public’ portion of the public-private collaboration. The Authority would take the place of the current department, and would assume all duties and responsibilities. This includes the ability to receive appropriations from the General Assembly, provide advice and services for the purpose of economic development, and to make financial assistance awards.

The Economic Progress Corporation is the ‘private’ portion of the public-private collaboration. The new Corporation will be a nonprofit that qualifies as a 501 (3)(c) under Federal law and a 504 under Iowa law. The Corporation is not to be considered as an agency, department, or administrative unit of the state. This also means that the Corporation cannot receive appropriations from the General Assembly. The Corporation is being established so that donations and inheritances qualify as tax deductible under federal and state income tax laws. The Economic Progress Board will be chaired by either the Governor or the Lieutenant Governor, and contains seven other voting members who are from the private, for-profit sector of the economy that will be appointed by the Governor, confirmed by the Senate, and will serve four year terms.

As we work on various issues, I would love to hear from you. Senator Feenstra and I will be holding our next joint legislative forums on February 12th at the following locations to discuss various issues concerning the Iowa Legislature:

• Le Mars Public Library at 9:30 AM • Orange City City Hall at 11:00 AM • Hawarden City Hall at 1:00 PM • Akron Public Library at 2:30 PM If you have any questions, comments or know someone who would like to receive my electronic newsletter via email, please feel free to reach me during the week at (515)-281-3221, on weekends at (712)-546-6136 or email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

State Senator Randy Feenstra, Hull

As your State Senator, I am your voice in Des Moines and
encourage your input. Please feel free to contact me at
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it If you would like to read my comments on a daily basis, you can go to my web-site at

We are now five weeks into the legislative session. The Senate has onlypassed two bills! The House has passed well over 20 bills. This is remarkable!!! The people of Iowa have sent us to the Capitol to do a job. Yet, one party seems to have no interest in working. Many of our committee meetings are cancelled each day or they have speakers that have very little
to do with the subject matter of the committee. This is really frustrating. I will create a new word and call this absurd
behavior “Gron-stalling.” Mike Gronstal is the Majority Leader of the Senate (head of the Democrats in the Senate). He controls what bills come to the floor for debate; and he also controls the timing for debate. It seems like Senator Gronstal will let the Republicans do all the work in the House this session and then try to compromise with the House and the Governor on some sort of budget at the end of session. This will keep the Senate out of the equation the entire session. If this is the case, let’s
save taxpayer dollars and gavel out until late April.

State Money vs. Federal Money

This week in the Commerce Committee, we had Dave Roederer, head of the
Department of Management, speak to us. He explained how the state will
receive approximately $6.2 billion in revenue this year. This money will
come from state tax dollars. He also noted that the state will receive
approximately this same amount from the federal government ($6.3 billion).
He concluded that the entire revenue the state collects will be well over
$12 billion (50% from the state and 50% from the federal government).
He addressed the federal amount as a significant problem. The federal
government NEVER gives free money to the states. Rather, they create
strings to this money that require the state to conform to federal
regulations, or match a certain percent with state dollars. However, the
biggest concern is a thing called “Maintenance of Effort.” These are
contracts made by the federal government to the state. It requires the
state to implement a program which will initially be funded by the federal
government and then the state must take over the costs of the program in the
This creates programs that must perpetually be funded because of the upfront
federal money that the state agreed upon. The state ends up with the
financial expense for years after the federal funding has dried up. This
begs the question, who runs our state, the federal government? We keep
finding ourselves in a budget hole because of all these contractual
obligations to the federal government. Welfare, Medicare, unemployment,
Medicaid, and it goes on and on!
It’s time the legislature stop being a doormat for the federal government.
It’s time the legislature stand up to big brother and say that we no longer
want to be captive to all your special entitlement programs. If we don’t,
it will bankrupt Iowa. Universal Health Care may be the final nail in the

HF 189 providing $47 million dollars in direct property tax relief to Iowans
passed the Iowa House in bipartisan fashion on a vote of 73-22. Over the
last few years, decisions by the legislature have placed a heavy burden on
the backs of property taxpayers. This bill helps ease that burden.

The budget guarantee last year for schools was $25 million. The increase
this year will be $22 million for a total of $47 million. HF 189 covering
the budget guarantee increase resulting from fully funding zero percent
allowable growth now moves onto the Senate.

The State will honor its commitment. By fully funding zero percent
allowable growth, this gives schools certainty, while at the same time
protecting Iowa property taxpayers from the large increases they have
experienced the last few years.

Our spending reflects our values. Education remains the top budget
priority. The state will increase school funding $215 million dollars, but
won’t continue the recent practice of shifting that burden onto the backs of
all property taxpayers.

This helps rural and small schools. This bill will help schools with
declining enrollments maintain their spending levels. Over 277 school
districts will receive a budget guarantee.

HF 189 protects Iowa property taxpayers. This bill eases the burden of
runaway property tax increases, while putting more money into the hands of
everyday Iowans to invest, spend or save as they chose.

Getting Government Out of the Way of Iowa Businesses

My colleagues and I believe that an important component of job creation and
fostering a positive economic climate means government getting out of the
way of businesses. There are a number of ways that Republicans are working
to reduce burdensome regulations.

The first of these is a tour with Legislative Republicans and the governor,
hitting the road to talk with and listen to Iowans. They will stop in 10
communities across the state collecting ideas from all Iowans on what
administrative rules are getting in the way of business. Republicans are
traveling to Ames, Newton, Oskaloosa, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Cresco,
Cedar Falls, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Burlington. Legislators will return
to Des Moines and to implement the proposed ideas to remove these road
blocks. The meeting in Sioux City will be on Friday, February 25, 2011 at
Morningside College, 1501 Morningside Ave., from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The Economic Growth committee will begin discussing a number of bills
related to administrative rules. HF 176 requires that state agencies go no
further in administering rules or policies than the corresponding federal
law or policy. This means that federal rules or policies would be the
ceiling, not the floor. Federal regulations are quite enough, we don’t need
the state to make them even more burdensome. HF 181 is a bill that provides
an automatic sunset to all rules five years after their adoption. This act
forces a constant updating and review of rules that can become outdated and
overly burdensome. Removing these barriers will allow for a reduction in
burdens on businesses and job creation.

State Representative Dwayne Alons of Hull:

House Votes to Send $216 Million New Money to Schools in FY12

On Tuesday afternoon, the House voted along party-lines to approve $216
million in new state funding for school districts in FY12. The bill, House
File 185, set allowable growth at 0% for FY12 and FY13 to rein in state
spending and stop the bleeding of property tax payers over the last 3 years
of underfunding and across-the-board cuts.

A 0% allowable growth rate that increases funding may raise an eyebrow at
first glance. Doesn’t zero mean zero? In most cases it does, but not in
the case of allowable growth for FY12. Previous unmet commitments and the
replacement of one-time money that is no longer available put the state in a
big enough hole that the state had to spend more general fund money just to
get back to zero.

The numbers are laid out fairly simply. The democratic controlled
legislature last year established a 2% allowable growth but then proceeded
to underfund the state’s commitment by $156.1 million. In addition, they
used $47.9 million in federal stimulus funds and transferred $5.1 million
from the Underground Storage Tank fund for education, both of which are not
available again next year. Add to those a $7 million increase in funding,
which the funding formula generates at 0%, and the total becomes $216

No Democrats supported the measure on the floor and leveled misleading and
unfounded allegations during debate. They claimed that no legislature has
ever turned their back on school districts like this in over 40 years.
However, Republicans feel that…

ü ü promising 4% in FY09 and then taking $33 million of that back in an
across-the-board cut later in the year;
ü ü promising 4% in FY10 and then underfunding that by $31 million and then
taking $230 million of that back in a 10% across-the-board cut; and
ü ü promising 2% in FY11 and then underfunding by $156 million…

is turning your back on, not only school districts, but property tax payers.
When a district is in the middle of an operating year and has locked in
contracts for salaries and services, a sudden decrease in funding can go
almost nowhere other than to the property tax payers. These activities have
resulted in $450 million, over the last three years, hitting the backs of
property tax payers.

And then we come to this year. The legislature is required by law to set
allowable growth 18 months in advance. FY12’s allowable growth should have
been set last year, but the legislature bypassed the law and passed the
responsibility down the road to this year.

Just two months from now school districts will need to certify their
budgets. Passing the buck to this current year on setting allowable growth
has not been fair to those districts. Over-promising and under-delivering
has not been fair to those districts. Neither has pulling the rug out from
under those districts with mid-year across-the-board cuts.

House Republicans are being honest with the taxpayer and the school
districts this year and are putting an end to unfair practices. When we are
facing a $700 million difference between revenues and spending, $216 in new
money to school districts is a fair number. When most other areas in state
government are seeing a proposed 6% or more cut by the governor, school
districts will see new money.

It is worth noting that had the previous legislature met their obligation
and fully funded 2% allowable growth as they promised, 0% this year would
mean a $6.7 million increase in state funding, not $216 million. And the
$216 million the state is providing for FY12 is equal to roughly a 6.5%
allowable growth rate.

Legislative Forums
February 11, Rock Valley, Cedar Rock Grill, 12:00 noon
February 18, Hull, Pizza Ranch, 12:00 noon
February 25, Inwood, Market Place Grille, 12:00 noon
February 26, Rock Rapids Forster Community Bldg., 8:00 am, “Eggs and Issues”

State Representative Dan Huseman of Aurelia:

This is the time of the Legislative session when everything seems to come to
an abrupt halt. That doesn’t mean lawmakers are sitting around doing
nothing. It simply means that there are no bills ready for floor debate.
The House has already passed a dozen or so bills which were ready early in
the session. Now, bills are awaiting sub-committee and committee approval,
and the House is waiting for something to come over from the Senate. In the
next couple of weeks more legislation will move to the floor, so if you have
concerns or opinions on anything, please stay informed and feel free to
contact me at any time.

On Thursday, February 10th, House Republicans released their budget targets
for Fiscal Year 2012. This is the first step in aligning ongoing spending
with ingoing revenue. This is the first time in five years a proposal has
been laid on the table that promised to spend no more than we take in. The
Governor’s numbers are a bit higher than the House Republican figure and
Senate Democrats will release targets still higher yet. In fact, the Senate
numbers will be $477 million higher than the House figure. So, as you can
see, there is a lot of heavy lifting ahead. There will be plenty of give
and take, and negotiations will be difficult. This will not be easy, but we
will try to eliminate unnecessary and duplicative spending. The Governor
believes it is imperative to get Iowa’s fiscal house in order now, before it
is too late. As I mentioned before, this is going to be painful for a lot
of people, but doing nothing to correct our spending problems would be a

As I mentioned in a previous newsletter, I have the honor of serving as
chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals budget
sub-committee. Our committee is responsible for the funding of hundreds of
different projects and programs around the state. Most of the money comes
from gambling proceeds. The list of projects is varied, ranging from
routine maintenance for state property to soil and water conversation
throughout Iowa.

This year, our committee will make several critical decisions regarding the
Honey Creek Resort in south central Iowa, and an old hospital a block from
the Capitol which was purchased by the state a couple of years ago.

Honey Creek is a destination park which cost over $60 million to build. In
the beginning, the Department of Natural Resources wanted private companies
to be involved in the resort, but nobody bit because they knew it would not
be a profitable venture. So, the legislature in its wisdom, elected to go
ahead with the project and at this time, the state is responsible for $32
million in bond payments because the park is not making money, and the
payments must be made. What do we do? Things are looking better for the
resort, but there is no way proceeds will ever be enough to make the bond
payments. Should we try to sell it? Should we lease it? Or do we just
suck it up and keep making payments? I’m afraid we are stuck, and taxpayers
are on the hook for a lot of money.

Several years ago, an investor offered to sell the Mercy hospital, an
attractive piece of real estate near the Capitol. The price was about $22
million. At that time, lawmakers did the smart thing and said no to
purchasing the property. A short time later, the price had dropped to a
little over $4 million, so the State went ahead and bought it. The original
intent was to remodel the building and turn it into office space for state
employees. It costs $8-10 million a year to rent space, so it seemed like a
reasonable plan. Our committee toured the facility this week, and saw some
of the areas that have already been renovated and are occupied. These areas
are nice.

The problem is, it is extremely costly to renovate, and especially in this
case, where a former hospital is involved. You can imagine the amount of
plumbing and wiring in that place. Also, we have just been given a study
that says the state could put another $10-12 million in the building, and
the structure will be shot in 10 years. What do we do? Remodel or
demolish? My guess is that if the building is only going to last another 10
years, lawmakers will shy away from putting any more money into it. But,
the way this place operates, just about anything is possible.

You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at
515-281-3221, or at home on weekends at 712-434-5880. You may write me at
the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is P.O. Box 398,
Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

State Senator Bill Anderson of Pierson:

Without a doubt, the largest share of discussion so far in the 84th
General Assembly has focused on what we, as legislators, need to do to cut
back spending. House and Senate Republicans along with Governor Branstad
have already taken measures to reduce the size and cost of state government.
The temptation, however, is still there for some legislators to continue to
spend your hard-earned tax dollars on superfluous projects that are not
cost-effective and not necessary to serve Iowans.

One case in point is the proposed high-speed rail project from Iowa City to
Chicago. I listened to a presentation regarding the train, and the simple
fact is that it will cost the taxpayers too much money. One of the selling
points by those in support of the rail system is the federal appropriation
to aid in construction. However, it will also require a significant
investment of your tax dollars. In addition, the cost of running and
maintaining the train will leave Iowans on the hook for millions of dollars.
This project just doesn’t make sense when our state is already in dire
financial straits.

Your state government’s willingness to involve itself in wasteful spending
projects has led to an underfunded education system. Last year’s
legislature approved 2% allowable growth but went on to underfund our
schools by $156.1 million. They also used one-time monies from federal
stimulus funds and other emergency sources to fund some of the commitment.
The result has shifted the financial burden onto local school districts,
forcing them to levy additional property taxes to the tune of $450 million
over the last three years. This practice is simply unacceptable.
Superintendents in District 27 have been telling me to not promise more than
we can deliver. That’s great advice, and I intend to follow it.

The future doesn’t have to be bleak, though. If legislators can refrain
from embarking on new ventures like the rail project while cutting back on
government programs that have become bloated and ineffective, we can fix our
state’s fiscal mess. It will require all of us to make some difficult
decisions, but we owe it to our children and our grandchildren to put our
state back on sound financial footing. Doing so will allow us to fully fund
the necessary functions of state government.

Earlier this week, Sherry Timmins and Thom Hart from the Department of
Economic Development presented to the Ways and Means Committee. The
Commerce Committee heard a presentation from Jesse Patton, president and CEO
of Association Marketing Group. Other discussion centered on the affect
health care reform will have on everyday Iowans. Something new this week
was a walking tour of the Iowa Building. In a joint committee meeting of
the Transportation & Infrastructure and Agriculture & Natural Resources
Appropriations subcommittees we heard a progress report from the management
team of the Honey Creek resort. Another exciting piece of news was my being
assigned to chair a subcommittee for SSB 1098, a bill regarding the
reporting of damage to a new motor vehicle. I will let you know how it

Thank you again for giving me the honor and opportunity to serve as your
senator. Please feel free to contact me with questions, comments and ideas.
You may reach me at
712-898-2505 or send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Please
forward my newsletter on to your family and friends. If you would like to
be added to my email list send me your contact information. Until next
time, have a great week!

March Town Halls

Saturday, March 5th

· · Sergeant Bluff Town Hall, 9AM to 10AM, Community Center, 903 Topaz
· · Sioux City Town, Hall, 10:30AM to 11:30AM, Morningside Public
Library, 4005 Morningside

Saturday, March 12th

· · Larrabee Town Hall, 9:30AM to 10:30AM, Fire station, 106 N. Main
· · Cherokee Town Hall, 11:00AM to 12:00PM, City Hall, 416 W. Main
· · Quimby Town Hall, 12:30PM to 1:30PM, City Council Chambers, 101 E.

(Newsletters posted as submitted by the legislators)

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