Serious legislative work on Iowa’s next budget will now commence in earnest as lawmakers received budget targets this week. With the session now near the halfway point, the remaining weeks will become vitally important to pocketbooks of every taxpayer in this Iowa. Before the final budget is voted on by both the Iowa Senate and Iowa House and then signed by Governor Culver, many tough decisions will need to be made.
As taxpayers of this state, we can proceed in two different directions. The first direction is to continue on the path that our state has been on the last three years. This path, which has been pursued by Governor Culver and legislative Democrats, has lead to billion dollar deficits, budgets that do not fully reflect the true priorities of Iowans and substantial job-killing property tax increases. The budgets the last three years have been some of the biggest in the state’s history and they all have had one thing in common: they have all used one-time dollars to pay for ongoing expenses.
Growing the size of government by adding more bureaucracies and programs with no long-term revenue source to pay for it all is exactly why our state is in the fiscal predicament it is today. For example, Democrats used hundreds of millions of one-time dollars of President Obama’s bailout program known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last year to continue spending. They also have used other important savings accounts like the Senior Living Trust Fund and the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.
The spending of the one-time dollars may have lead to an immediate feeling of gratification but the fiscal realities down the road, as we are experiencing today, are devastating. This would be like someone guzzling a high sugar, high caffeine energy drink to get an immediate buzz and feeling of vigor only to have it wear off a short time later and experience a crashing feeling. The only real long-term solution for that individual is to get some much needed sleep – not more high sugar beverages. Likewise, there’s only so many one-time dollars available to lawmakers in Des Moines. The only real long-term solution is to reduce spending and halt the overall growth in government.
We know Iowans are proud of this state and they want to see budgets that are fiscally sound and reflect the true priorities of the citizens. That’s why Senate Republicans have been very clear that these fiscally irresponsible budgeting practices of the last three years must end. We are offering the taxpayers of Iowa a different and better direction – one that is a necessary change after the last three years of fiscal recklessness and mismanagement.
First, we must have a Constitutional Amendment to limit state spending to no more than 99 percent of state revenue. Too often, legislators have found loopholes to avoid responsible budgeting. By putting this important spending limitation in the Constitution, we are protecting the taxpayer from future fiscally irresponsible spending sprees like the ones we have seen the last three years.
Secondly, we believe a two-thirds supermajority vote of the Legislature must be required to approve new state borrowing. Iowans need greater protection against state debt and bipartisan agreement should be required before the state saddles taxpayers with debts. Had this been in place before last year’s session, our common sense taxpayer protection would have saved taxpayers over a billion dollars as Governor Culver’s unpopular temporary government work plan would not have been enacted.
Third, we must sunset and de-authorize every state budget program every four years to ensure no state program continues indefinitely without a specific review and reauthorization by the governor and Legislature. This ensures a constant evaluation of the programs our hard earned dollars are supporting and a process to end the inefficient and ineffective programs that are not worthy of continuing.
In the remaining few weeks of this session, there is ample time to put Iowa’s fiscal condition back on solid footing and work to protect the taxpayer from many of the property tax hikes that are only making it more difficult – not easier for jobs to be created. Senate Republicans have said from day one that we must focus on jobs, property tax relief and putting Iowa’s finances back on stable ground. We will continue to offer our common sense proposals and solutions and we will never lose focus of the reasons why we proudly serve: to bring about brighter future for our children, grandchildren and the future generations of Iowans who, like us, will be fortunate enough to call this great state home.