image By Senator Paul McKinley, Iowa Senate Republican Leader

Government debt is on the rise in Iowa.

Not only have Iowans witnessed hefty increases in state spending, the unemployment rate and property taxes during the last few years, but we have seen an alarming spike in public debt.

As it stands today, Iowa now has the most debt in the state’s 164 year history. A recent tally shows that Iowa has nearly $1.1 billion in public debt associated with our prisons, Vision Iowa spending, school infrastructure, and Governor Culver’s failed I-JOBS program. Prior to Governor Culver being elected and Democrats taking control of the Legislature in 2006, Iowa had close to $200 million of debt in those areas. In just a few short years, the debt amount has quintupled.

This graph below illustrates the dramatic spike. If you notice, the chart only accounts for principal – the taxpayers are also on the hook for paying any interest and fees as well.

Unfortunately, that is only just a fraction of Iowa’s debt. Iowa’s true total debt for all of state government and its agencies, cities, schools, AEAs, regent universities and community colleges is over $11.6 billion as of June 30, 2009 according to a report issued late last year by the State Treasurer. Compared to the year before, that level of debt is an increase of 6.33 percent. With the level of spending happening in Iowa this year, that number is likely to only get bigger.

Debt at all levels of government is growing out of control. The debt crisis in Greece and Europe as a whole has threatened their currency which has undermined the European economy and the consequences are beginning to ripple through our stock market and the worldwide economy. Our federal deficit is now well beyond $12 trillion and getting worse by the day.

The simple truth is that government is spending too much of your money.

The long-term solution is two-fold. First, we need to stop spending at such an alarming rate. We need to better prioritize our spending. Secondly, we must grow our economy so we can create more jobs. With the highest unemployment in over two decades, it’s safe to say Governor Culver and legislative Democrats have proven that you cannot tax, borrow or spend your way to prosperity.

Governor Culver’s $1.7 billion I-JOBS program is a prime example. When he announced the idea, he promised it would create 30,000 jobs. In the time since, over 30,000 Iowans have actually lost their jobs. We must move away from the mindset of allowing government to pick winners and losers.

Instead, we must unleash the entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity of the private sector. We know small business, the engine of economic growth in this state, is responsible for two out of every three new jobs created. We should not be adding additional barriers, such as Culver’s massive property tax increases, that make it more difficult for jobs to be created. We must grow this economy and send a clear message that Iowa is a destination for all those who wish to find success and fulfill their economic dreams.

We must never lose focus on the future and remember that while we aim to help the Iowans of today, we are also building a state so that all of our children, grandchildren and the future generations of Iowans can find a job or build a business and raise their families here.

Future generations of Iowans deserve more than spiraling debt and unsustainable spending year after year. It is simply unfair to them. They deserve a state where opportunity is provided and success is rewarded. Each generation is trusted with the goal of renewing the promise of a more hopeful and optimistic future. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us to make good on our word.

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