Following one of the most historic elections in Iowa history, the 2011 Iowa legislative session convened this week with a sense of renewed excitement. This election was historic in the sense that many new legislators and a new governor were elected but also historic in the undeniable and unmistakable message that the voters conveyed in November.
As a result – it’s a new day.
This is the dawning of a new, more optimistic and prosperous era for all who call this astonishing state home.
For the past several years, government has only continued to grow – further encroaching into our lives at the expense of freedom, liberty and independence.
Spending has spiraled out-of-control, debt has grown at alarming rates, taxes have only gone higher and barriers to job creation have been added instead of removed.
Elected officials had stopped listening to the collective voices of the people – seniors, entrepreneurs, small business owners, employers and others who had elected them as their voice and their vote.
As a result, the people spoke – and spoke loudly and clearly. They said:
Give us back our government and listen.
Do not spend more than our government takes in.
Be as careful with our tax dollars as you are with your own.
Hold the line on taxes and give us some tax relief.
Quit letting the government pick winners and losers and instead reignite the engine of economic growth – the small businesses, entrepreneurs and employers that create two out of every three new jobs.
Give us a vote on the basic definition of marriage, protect life, be responsive and do all you can to promote opportunity, prosperity and freedom.
Senate Republicans are listening closely to the people and we are eager to act on their wishes. It is time to restore the public trust in government and to move forward on a new and more hopeful agenda.
Because our Constitution thankfully demands a balanced budget, Senate Republicans will continue to work hard to find savings, eliminate waste and offer innovative solutions and systemic reforms that will result in a leaner and more efficient delivery of services.
We must now work together to pass a sustainable and responsible budget that funds the core essential services of government and reflects the priorities of our districts. We must accomplish this without continuing to shift taxes onto local governments and continuing the past practice of using one-time dollars for ongoing expenditures.
Yet, this is not just about this year or the next – this is about offering a sustainable and fiscally responsible vision for the years ahead.
While much of the focus may be on the budget, we face another tremendous challenge. Iowa has over 110,000 Iowans in the ranks of the unemployed and many other of our fellow citizens are underemployed having endured furloughs, benefit cuts and hour reductions.
Let us unleash the entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity of the private sector again. Let’s create a climate with reasonable levels of regulation and taxation that encourages private investment in our workforce. We should not punish the very people we need to help grow our state.
Senate Republicans intend to make this session about promoting private sector job creation, getting our fiscal house in order and providing real relief for taxpayers. For the future of Iowa, our children and grandchildren, we certainly hope to find bi-partisan support.
However, we will certainly be asked work on other important endeavors. Challenges always exist in education, health care, energy, agriculture and with our natural resources. We must do better in providing oversight and never stop trying to make our government more open and transparent.
We must also challenge ourselves to guarantee ample public safety and ensure that we have roads and infrastructure that are safe, reliable and capable of supporting the Iowa economy of the future.
Senate Republicans are excited about the weeks and months ahead. We are eager to work with Governor Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and our colleagues across the rotunda in the House of Representatives. We graciously extend our hand to any of our Senate Democratic colleagues who are ready to join with us in renewing the boundless future embodied in all 99 counties.
Every Iowan is unique and special but we all are looking for similar things: a better life and jobs for our family, good schools and safe communities for our children and a government that lives within its means, promotes liberty and fosters opportunity.
Iowans are blessed with common sense, are hardworking, frugal and optimistic about the future. They care about their communities, their schools and their 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 the bedrock and lifeblood of this great state.
Iowans sent a strong message just a few short weeks ago. This is a new day and a new era for this state. It is time to seize this opportunity and embrace it fully.
State Senator Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) is the Iowa Senate Minority Leader