imageBy Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen

The 84th General Assembly got underway on Monday, January 10th with the formal swearing in of legislators and speeches given by the House leadership.  With my family by my side, it was an honor to be sworn in as the 71st Speaker of the Iowa House.  You can read my full speech below.

Typically, the first week of session consists of a lot of formalities which leaves little time for action.  This year however, House Republicans are doing things a little differently.  House Republicans are eager to get to work on the people’s business so this week a subcommittee on the Taxpayers First Act took place.  It went on to pass the full Appropriations committee on Wednesday.

The Taxpayers First Act as it passed committee saves Iowa taxpayers over a half a billion dollars in addition to setting aside $327 million in tax relief.  The bill also provides $25 million to support un-funded state commitment to remove Iowans from wait lists for mental health services – a core responsibility the state must deliver to Iowans in need of service.

Iowans made clear this fall that they want to their representative government do less and spend less – this bill is a first step in that direction.  We will streamline all funds over the next three years.  This is not about the validity of programs, but instead it is the beginning of a discussion about what government can afford.  Should the state be spending money on t-shirts for smoking cessation programs instead of the hundreds of people who are on the mental health waiting list?  Or are we willing to pull State Troopers off the road to buy more office supplies?

Many of the ideas in the Taxpayers First Act came directly from Iowans.  As this bill moves through the process, we continue our efforts to hear from Iowans. Next week there will be a public hearing held on Tuesday, January 18th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm in the House chamber.  To sign up to speak on the bill, feel free to call (515) 281-5129.

Below is my opening day speech:

I want to welcome family and friends to the Iowa House of Representatives, this is the people’s house and it is important we never lose sight of that fact. I also want to extend my congratulations to all of the members; the people of Iowa and in particular the people in your individual House districts have placed their trust in you by electing you to serve as their voice in Des Moines. It is a privilege and a responsibility that I know all of you will take seriously.

Today nearly one-third of you begin serving your first term. If I may give you one piece of advice it is to listen carefully. Take time each day to stop and listen to each other, but more importantly listen to what your constituents have to say. Listen to their ideas and what they want – or don’t want – from their representative government. If we all do that, and do our best to respond accordingly, I have no doubt we will accomplish great things.

It is important to recognize that the campaign is over and Iowans expect us to govern. Equally as important is to acknowledge the messages Iowans sent on Election Day, and listen to the will of the people. Iowans want and expect their elected officials – at all levels of government – to keep our promises and work together in an open and transparent manner.

Iowans are tired of their government telling them, instead of asking them, what is in their best interests. They are frustrated that their government has grown too big, become uncoordinated and simply spends and does far too much.

Already, House Republicans have responded by reaching out to House Democrats asking for their ideas on how to reduce the size and scope of state government, and save taxpayer dollars.

Building off good bi-partisan work done last year, later today, the Appropriations Committee will meet to assign House Study Bill 1, The Taxpayers First Act. The thrust of the bill is a collection of ideas submitted by Iowans over the past two years.

According to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, this bill alone saves close to $500 million dollars in the current and next two fiscal years.

Just as important, the bill creates a Tax Relief Fund designed to capture any remaining general fund surplus and deliver it back to the taxpayer.

Over the past two years, Republicans have stated we would not support a budget that spends more money than the state takes in. Funding ongoing expenditures with one-time revenue and on the backs of the property taxpayer has gone on far too long. This body will end this practice, and the Taxpayers First Act is the first step in getting our fiscal house in order.

This session we will continue our focus on those issues we’ve been discussing and have promised to address.
I know this chamber is committed to putting Iowans back to work, reining in government spending and providing Iowans the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage.

We are serious about creating an environment that encourages employers to invest in Iowa, enabling them to expand and hire hard-working Iowans. For too long, government’s answer to unemployment has been to spend taxpayer dollars. Clearly, with over 110,000 Iowans unemployed, that hasn’t worked.

In order to turn the economy around and begin to reduce unemployment, it is imperative this legislature provide certainty to employers that they will be operating in a pro-growth environment. Until employers have confidence in the general business climate they will not make long-term planning decisions to invest in Iowa and expand their workforce.

This chamber will protect Iowa’s Right to Work law.

We will conduct a thorough and thoughtful review of state rules and regulations, seeking to cut through the red tape that is a burden to doing business in Iowa.

We will address Iowa’s tax system. Iowa is at a competitive disadvantage with other states when it comes to income and property taxes. Across the board, taxes are too high, and now is the time to institute spending controls and work to reduce the tax burden.

Of course we will also tackle a host of other issues that Iowans want addressed … public safety, health care, education, disaster recovery, to name a few.

Each issue will require careful consideration and steady leadership. I am confident that with this group of 100 legislators, we are more than capable at making sure our work is done correctly, in the light of day and with public input.

In closing, I want to thank you – the members of the 84th General Assembly – for the privilege of serving as the Speaker of the House. I recognize that in this role, I not only represent my district, but to a certain degree represent each of your districts’ interests as well. It is truly an honor and you have my word I will work tirelessly every day in this position to move our state forward.

I also want to take a moment to thank my family; my parents, my brother and sisters and their families’, my wife’s parents, her brother and family; … and especially: my wife Cathy and our children Kassandra, Kylere, Kale and Keith. It is because of your love and support that I am able to preside over this chamber today. Thank you for your understanding and sharing in the sacrifice of our time together.

Later today we will be choosing our desks. These will be assigned to each of us for the next two years. I mention this to make this point. While that is where we will be assigned and do Iowa’s work … these are not our desks. They belong to the 30,000 people back home we represent; they are letting us sit in them. We must keep this in mind.

Now it is time to band together on behalf of the people of Iowa. Now it is time to get to work.

Thank you and may God bless this body and the State of Iowa.

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