By Paul McKinley, Iowa Senate Republican Leader
After 79 days, the 2010 legislative session is adjourned. Unfortunately, it was a session of missed opportunities.
From day one, we made it crystal clear that we believe this session should have been about three major and very important priorities: long-term sustainable private sector job creation, spending and budgetary reform and property tax relief.
As the session ends, 112,500 Iowans are out of work, the highest unemployment level in 23 years. There are many others underemployed and still many more who have stopped looking for work.
When the governor’s temporary government work program known as I-Jobs was created last session, he promised it would create 30,000 jobs. In the year since, Iowa has actually lost over 30,000 jobs. Instead of changing the course of our path – we only amplified the problem.
When we should have been focusing on making it easier for private sector jobs to be created and removing the barriers to private sector job creation, this Legislature chose policies that allow government to continue to pick winners and losers, increase taxes and erect more barriers to job creation.
On jobs, we could have and should have done better.
Concerning the budget, Governor Culver and his legislative allies authorized the second most amount of money in state history.
Iowans have grown exceedingly upset with the overspending of the last three years. We missed a golden opportunity to pass a sustainable and responsible budget that truly reflects the priorities of Iowans.
Instead, they continued the past practice of using one-time dollars for ongoing expenses, raised many fees and fines and pushed even more of the spending onto the backs of local property taxpayers. This governor and Legislature opted to balance the budget on the backs of hardworking Iowans.
Built-in spending increases for fiscal year 2012 now exceeds $1 billion dollars and our new budget uses over $700 million in one-time funds to be used for ongoing expenses. Iowa cannot afford for this to continue year after year. It is simply unsustainable.
On spending and budgetary reform, we could have and should have done better.
Iowa has some of the highest property taxes in the nation and this session was a missed opportunity to do something about that. Higher property taxes are just another barrier to job creation at a time when we can least afford it.
By breaking the promise made to our school districts, property taxes are set increase by over $180 million. Keep in mind, those tax increases are in addition to the second most spending in state history. There is still way too much spending.
On property tax relief, we could have and should have done better.
This legislature also failed to allow the citizens of Iowa a vote on the basic definition of marriage. Iowans have overwhelmingly asked for a chance to vote. Their desires have been arrogantly ignored. Like the issue of jobs, property tax relief and spending reform, this was a missed opportunity to act on the wishes of Iowans.
Though this may have been the session of missed opportunities, let there be no mistake: there is ample reason to be optimistic about the outlook of this great state.
When we do emerge from this economic malaise, we must be prepared to harness the possibility that exists and make it reality. It will require us to take bold action and make a 180 degree turn from our current direction.
We must fully understand that government does not create jobs and it cannot generate wealth. Instead we must unleash the originality and imagination of the private sector to build the new Iowa economy of the future.
Iowa should be the destination place for anyone to open a business or chase their dreams. We have safe, welcoming communities, a wonderful education heritage and a dedicated and devoted workforce. We have a state that offers ample potential – 99 counties worth of potential.
Much of that potential exists because of our people. This is an exceptional state filled with extraordinary people who are dedicated to its constant renewal.
Iowans are blessed with common sense, are hardworking, frugal and hopeful about the future. They care about their communities, their schools and the neighbors around them. Our people are smart, they love this state and they want what is best for their families. This sense of independence, community and self sufficiency is what makes this state so astonishingly special.
If we fail to change course, those very people who make this state second to none, will find a home elsewhere. They have the skills, the work ethic and the common sense that are in high demand. They will raise their families elsewhere. They will find jobs elsewhere or start their businesses elsewhere. Other places will gain at Iowa’s expense.
We must make Iowa a hub of opportunity that attracts the brightest minds from around the world to become Iowans and be part of a tradition and way of life unlike and unsurpassed by any other.
It’s time for a renewal of the principles that have made this state second to none.