Traditionally, voting on the department budget bills signals the end of a Legislative session. The budget process lasts through much of the session. This year, the process was tweaked to move things along faster than in past sessions. House Republicans and Senate Democrats sat down together and worked on joint budget targets, which were presented several weeks ago.
House Republicans and Senate Democrats proposed a joint budget target of $6.972 billion, which is nearly $3 million below ongoing revenues. The proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget is an increase of 7.4 percent over the FY2014 budget, more than double the historic revenue growth of 3.6 percent. This is troubling because the increase far exceeds the growth in household incomes. Though I appreciate the work that has been done to keep our fiscal house in order, these joint targets are higher I believe Iowans can afford. They also do not include the One-Time funding bill, which takes money from the state’s ending fund balance.
Just imagine planning a family cross country trip to Disneyland. Traditionally, a vacation of this nature requires meticulous planning. First, you would set a budget to pay for fuel, food and lodging along the way. By having such a plan in place, you would know how much money you would need to fulfill your financial obligations from Iowa to California and back again. This is how most families prepare for their vacation. However, without thoughtful consideration, the family excursion could result in becoming stranded in Tucumcari, New Mexico, without two nickels to rub together or a plan how to get back to Iowa. The moral of this story is to take steps not to become stranded in Tucumcari, New Mexico.
As we address the state budget in these final weeks of the 2014 Legislative session, we appear to be on course to leave us broke and stranded in Tucumcari – without a sound plan how to return home. Though the analogy appears far-fetched, it does bear some merit. Yes, the state of Iowa has a surplus due to sound fiscal leadership. What we have seen proposed all session long is a never-ending thirst for Iowa taxpayers’ money. Proponents of this fiscal insanity mention this surplus and cannot understand why it is not being spent. That answer is quite simple, and illustrates their lack of vision.
The non-partisan Legislative Service Agency estimates the state budget will be operating at a structural deficit in the coming years. It is likely the surplus will be used to help fund commitments made in 2013 in regard to education and property tax reform. Projections indicate with present commitments, the surplus could be exhausted as early as five years.
This is why I continue to resist many spending requests. To do otherwise is a recipe for disaster if state spending continues at nearly twice the growth of household incomes. It is important to remember family budgets fund the state budget. If swift action is not taken soon to correct this reckless spending, the impact could be devastating to our state and Iowa families for years to come.
Here is the current status of the budget process:
SF 2342 Administration and Regulations – House Floor
HF 2458 Agriculture and Natural Resources – Senate Floor
SF 2347 Education – House Floor
HF 2460 Economic Development – Senate Floor
HF 2463 Health and Human Services – House Floor
HF 2449 Judicial Branch – On Governor’s desk
HF 2450 Justice Systems – Senate Floor
SF 2349 Infrastructure – House Appropriations
SF 2130 Transportation – House Floor (second time). House to approve Senate amendment, then to Governor.
Standing Appropriations – House Appropriations Subcommittee
One-Time Funding – Not drafted
Photo credit: Tony Fischer