By Senator Paul McKinley, Iowa Senate Republican Leader
Before we can run, we must learn how to walk. Before we can walk, we must learn how to crawl.
Governor Culver, late last week, issued a declaration claiming the actions utilized last winter to re-organize state government through an executive order, legislative action and an early retirement program would save $298.8 million over two years instead of his original estimation of $270 million.
Unfortunately, there was little evidence to substantiate his claims since he did not utilize numbers produced by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency. Instead, he chose to use figures produced internally by his own office. Given the serious financial mess the state is in – we can only hope his new estimates are accurate and not heightened for political purposes.
Make no mistake, the efforts taken this year to re-organize state government are only just a small first step – you might say we have begun to crawl. Unfortunately there is a long road yet to travel. Because of too much spending during the last four years by Governor Culver and legislative Democrats, Iowa still faces a $1 billion dollar deficit next year.
A recent report by State Auditor Dave Vaudt shows why we are in the alarming predicament that we find ourselves. Prior to Governor Culver and legislative Democrats coming into power, the state was spending approximately $1.01 per $1.00 that was coming into the state. Since Governor Culver and his fellow party members have taken over, the state has been spending approximately $1.13 for every dollar coming in.
Clearly Iowa does not have a revenue problem – we have a spending problem. During the last four years, we have seen the four largest spending budgets in state history. We have seen hundreds of millions of dollars in property tax increases and a quintupling of state debt. Without fundamental and systemic reforms, Iowa could become like California with serious structural deficits.
So where do we go from here?
First, we must stop spending beyond our means. This has become a serious problem during the last four years and it is simply unsustainable. Much of this year’s spending was one-time dollars used for ongoing expenses and now Iowa’s savings accounts are dangerously low. Unless President Obama and Congressional Democrats opt to pass another bailout for the overspending states, Iowa will not be able to continue spending at the rate we have been.
Secondly, we must continue to take steps to trim the size and scope of state government and continue to remove the waste and duplication that exists. We should start by adopting the over $300 million in additional savings offered by Senate and House Republicans during the last two years. Legislative Democrats either ignored the ideas or simply voted them down during debate.
Next, we must stop pushing more of the burden on to the taxpayers. Iowans all over the state will see hefty property tax increases courtesy of Governor Culver this fall. Even if you only rent your property, the person or business that owns it will likely pass that extra expense on to you. Iowa already has some of the highest property taxes in the nation. We cannot afford not to be competitive if we are to grow our economy.
Perhaps most importantly, we must focus on job creation and growing our economy. Right now, we have far more government than our economy can support. Creating an environment where small businesses and employers can thrive, succeed, grow and therefore hire more people is absolutely essential. Unbalanced budgets leading to higher taxes and the constant onslaught of anti-jobs legislation promoted by Governor Culver and legislative Democrats have not moved Iowa’s economy forward and instead have held it back.
The good news is that the debate in Iowa is slowly beginning to change. For the past few years, the liberals in charge of state government have only focused on spending more money, raising more taxes and fees, adding record levels of debt and promoting job killing legislation.
Finally, the discussion is slowly beginning to change. At last, we are starting to see some dialogue about actually reducing and reorganizing government – even if it is only just a small first step.
It’s time to speed up the process but that will take new leadership.
As soon as we begin to act on the Senate Republican priorities like job creation, reducing property taxes, really limiting the size and growth of state government and eliminating wasteful spending, it will be exciting to see the success our state and our citizens can attain.
We have 99 counties worth of potential and with the right priorities, the right leadership in the governor’s office and in the Legislature, it won’t be long until we can turn our current crawl into a walk and then a run.