By Paul McKinley, Iowa Senate Republican Leader
Every action has a consequence. Sometimes actions lead to a domino effect of consequences. This is true for Iowa’s state government right now. The actions taken by this governor and Legislature during the last three years have produced far reaching implications for Iowa’s budget, our jobs, property taxes and education system.
Governor Culver made a ten percent across-the-board reduction last fall as a result of three years of unsustainable increases in spending, record sized budgets and billion dollar deficits. When the reduction was made, hundreds of millions of dollars were cut from Iowa’s school districts forcing local property taxpayers to cover the difference – an amount that is now estimated to be between $230 and $270 million dollars.
Already with some of the highest property tax rates in the country, Governor Culver’s property tax increase makes Iowa even less competitive when it comes to attracting and keeping employers and entrepreneurs who are the job creators we need. His property tax increase is just another barrier to job creation at a time when we have over 110,000 Iowans unemployed along with many who are underemployed, have stopped looking or are hoping to join our workforce.
Every year, our schools receive over four billion dollars of which a half billion dollars comes with a whole series of strings and mandates attached. In order to help our students, assist our schools and shield the taxpayers of Iowa from many of Governor Culver’s property tax increases, Senate Republicans offered a bold plan on the floor of the Iowa Senate this week that would suspend these mandates and remove these strings to allow greater flexibility and local control. Our plan was heavily supported by parents, school officials, school board members and community and business leaders from all over the state who understand, first hand, the challenges our schools and taxpayers are facing.
Normally, this money cannot be used for a school’s general fund but our common sense proposal would allow schools the flexibility to use that money to pay for any financial challenges caused by the governor’s across-the-board cut. Instead of having to abide by mandates created by lawmakers and bureaucrats in Des Moines, Senate Republicans believed it would be better to give local school boards and administrators the flexibility and local control to spend that money how they see fit.
Our straight forward proposal was defeated with all Democrats voting to raise property taxes and all Republicans voting to give our schools more local flexibility and protect the property taxpayer. Governor Culver chose instead to mandate school districts drain their cash reserves and increase property taxes. When school districts replenish their cash reserves in the future, that money will also come out of the pockets of Iowa’s property taxpayers, thus making it even more difficult for jobs to be created.
Elections have consequences and for the past three years, the actions taken by this administration and this Legislature have lead to unsustainable budgets, which caused Iowa’s already high property tax rates go even higher. Iowa’s burdensome property taxes make it increasingly difficult for employers to keep their current workforce and hire new people. The actions of the governor and legislative Democrats have been killing jobs at the time they are needed most. This is only creating a domino effect of consequences that our state cannot afford.
There is a better way. We believe its time to take bold action to bolster our economy so that more Iowans, their families and their communities can thrive and flourish. Its time to take action to help the property taxpayers so our students in our schools can excel and our state can be more competitive when it comes to job creation. It’s time to take action to ensure we have a budget that is sustainable, balanced and reflects the true priorities of Iowans. As it stands today, we are not seeing the right kind of action from Governor Culver or legislative Democrats.
Senate Republicans have smart solutions and the optimistic vision to lead the way. We will continue to offer our ideas with the ultimate and over-arching goal of creating a better and stronger Iowa for every citizen in every community in every county. We believe that’s the kind of commitment that will lead to consequences that we can all live with and be genuinely proud of.