NW lawmakers weekly reports
You may be asking why we have not finished your work. It would be easy to blame the lack of an agreement to adjourn on specific budget details or some state policy differences. The reality is that it really boils down to the philosophical question, "what is the role of state government"? With that being said, the days of kicking the can down the road for someone else to deal with must be over! The House Republicans will keep the promises made to Iowans.
Our Promise to Iowans
Iowa's economy is hurting in this economic downturn and the recovery has been slow. Too many Iowans are out of work and are tired of watching an out-of-touch state government operate outside of the realities they face. With this in mind, the House Republicans have been, and continue to be, committed to an important set of principles throughout the legislative session:
"Put Iowans back to work
"Cut government spending
"Cut Iowans tax burden
"Make it easier to be an employer in the state of Iowa
"Reduce the size and scope of government
"Not spending more money than we take in
At the beginning of the 2011 session on January 10th, the House Republicans stated that fiscal responsibility and economic certainty were keys to getting Iowa back on track and to create and retain jobs. With that in mind, we passed legislation through the House that would provide Iowans broad-based tax relief. We also toured the state to identify regulatory red tape that is making it hard to create jobs and get Iowans back to work. Our first bill contained multiple reforms to shrink state government and to save taxpayers over $500 million. These efforts were largely rejected by the Senate Majority Party.
We have been committed throughout the legislative session to pass a budget that is both honest and sustainable. While we knew it was not going to be easy, it is what Iowans expect. Isn't that what we do in our personal lives and where we work? If we don't live within our means, we are personally faced with difficult financial consequences. Because your state government spent more money than what it collected for several years, we started with a nearly $1 billion hole to fill in this year's state budget of approximately $6 billion. This problem was created because previous state budgets underfunded commitments and used one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses.
To put this in perspective, Iowa's State Auditor, David Vaudt has reported that over the last four years, unsustainable budgeting practices have been used. Simply put, for every dollar of on-going state revenue, the state government spent:
"FY 08 = $1.07
"FY 09 = $1.09
"FY 10 = $1.14
"FY 11 = $1.13
Doing the Right Thing
When the Republican Majority Party in the House and by the Democrat Majority Party in the Senate released their respective proposed state budgets for next year, $147 million separated us. We immediately started to work through our differences at that point.
Throughout this year's legislative session, joint budget meetings have been and continue to be held. The legislature has gone through the state budget line by line to identify and work to resolve differences in each budget area. The House found agreement with the Governor and we worked to resolve the $147 million difference with the Senate by moving $100 million to further fund several identified priorities. Unfortunately, the Senate moved in the opposite direction by spending an additional $100 million. What did they use to fund this increase? As in the past, they are proposing to use one-time money to pay for ongoing programs and services. This budgeting practice is exactly what has to be changed if we want a sustainable and responsible state budget.
The Bottom Line
The budget disagreement boils down to this: the Senate Majority Party wants to continue funding ongoing programs using one-time money. In fact, the longer the legislative session lingers on, the more they want to spend. Their current proposed budget spends more than their own budget targets they set for themselves in January. They want to continue the status quo of the past and appear ready to threaten a government shutdown to do so. This is unnecessary and unproductive.
We have time to complete the work Iowans expect us to do, and remain firm in our resolve to adopt a budget that is sustainable, responsible, and focuses on our priorities. We need to keep our focus on growing our economy and creating new opportunities for Iowans. With Iowans in our corner, we will continue to stand by our principles and get the job done.
From State Representative Dwayne Alons, Hull:
Where, oh where, has Senator Gronstal gone? Where, oh where, can he be?
He is absent from the negotiating table, and he isn't leading any floor action in the Senate to complete the FY 2012 state budget. He said he would have a new proposal not later than Friday, the 27th, for House Republican leadership to consider. He agreed to a meeting and picked the time on the 27th to offer that proposal, but did an "about-face", canceled the meeting and walked out of the negotiations yesterday. He said he was listening to his caucus who informed him "he is negotiating too much (with Republicans) and he needs to take the dialogue to the public." Will he really go to the taxpayers of Iowa to hear their voice? Does he remember that last fall, the people of Iowa overwhelmingly voted to stop the out of control spending by choosing a new direction away from complete Democrat control at the Capitol?
Senate Democrats will claim that the outstanding issues are about education and job creation efforts. This is false. The outstanding issue boils down to one thing: Democrats want to spend more money. The House Republican budget plan is a commonsense responsible budget that does not spend more money than the state takes in, while simultaneously providing sufficient funding for education and services essential to Iowans. The budget bills show that the Senate budget, as they passed their version, spends more for on-going expenses than we have in on-going revenue. We cannot continue on that pathway; we must get our fiscal house in order.
My House colleagues and I have told our leadership "hold the line on spending." There is flexibility within the budget, but the total spending amount, limited by 99% of estimated revenue, is off limits for further changes.
I believe we should be posting a clock to show how many hours have elapsed since the Senate Democrats walked away from the table you purchased where our leadership figuratively remains seated, ready, willing, and able to negotiate. Our sleeves are rolled up, and we bring good faith, reasonableness, and your interests to the table. Oh, and if you see the senator, let him know that every minute that goes by, we remain at the table, with Governor Branstad, with a name tag on Senator Gronstal's seat. In the waning hours of the 2011 fiscal year, should he choose to return to the negotiating table putting Iowans above politics, we'll leave the light on for him.
THE ANDERSON REPORT
All across the country this weekend, in parks, cemeteries and schools, Americans will join with neighbors, family and friends to commemorate Memorial Day and pay homage to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and liberty.
These moving tributes are an awesome reminder of the generations of Americans who answered the calling to serve a cause greater than them so that others could live in the greatest country the world has ever known.
Thousands of men and women, many from Iowa, are today serving all over the world. Many of these brave men and women are stationed in dangerous areas of the world with hostile conditions. Like those who proudly wore the uniform before them, they have left their families, their communities and their jobs to defend our great nation from those who wish to do us harm.
However, honoring our brave men and women in uniform - past and present - must not become just a tradition that happens one weekend every May. It is our duty to ensure that our veterans, members of the reserves, National Guard, active duty personnel and their families are given the appreciation they have earned, every day.
Every year, the Iowa Legislature, with broad bipartisan support, passes legislation that benefits veterans and their families. For example, earlier this session the Legislature passed and Governor Branstad signed the "Stolen Valor Act," which makes it a criminal offense to falsely claim that one has received a medal or decoration from the United States Military.
That said, we can and should strive to do more. We must provide them and their families with a state that offers ample job and career opportunities, safe communities and world class schools. We can accomplish this by doing more to encourage a climate where private sector job creation can flourish while keeping taxes low and reducing the overall cost of government.
There is no question that these men and women who proudly wear the uniform, like those before them, deserve our continued support and respect.
So as you gather this weekend with friends and family at Memorial Day ceremonies or backyard barbeques, continue to be ever mindful that because of the sacrifices of those who proudly wear our nation's uniform, we can fully enjoy the blessings of life, liberty, freedom, opportunity and prosperity.
There is truly no price that any of us can put on that.
(Newsletters are posted as submitted)
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