Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) after the Iowa House gaveled in for the 2015 legislative session. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you Mr. Speaker,
Ladies and Gentlemen of the House, our families and guests here today, and to all Iowans listening and watching online, welcome to the 86th General Assembly of the Iowa House of Representatives.
I am honored to be sworn in today with such an amazing group of people. Take a look around the room. The variety of expertise and experience here is impressive.
You bring with you a wealth of perspective that will enrich the work we do here. Thank you for offering your time and talent to serve. Thank you to your families and friends for their support and helping make it possible for you to be here.
I want to thank my family for their patience and their sacrifice. I could not do this without your help and understanding.
To the great people of Butler, Franklin, and Cerro Gordo counties, thank you for this opportunity. I share your pride for our area and will always be mindful that while I am the occupant of this desk, you are the owner.
It is a privilege to return as the Majority Leader of the Iowa House. I want to thank my fellow Republicans for entrusting me with this responsibility. I admire your commitment to finding solutions and working together for the benefit of Iowa. I am proud to join you in continuing that work.
The task at hand is a challenging one. First and foremost we have a responsibility to craft a responsible budget. Fortunately the Iowa economy continues to grow. According to the December meeting of the Revenue Estimating Conference, we will have an additional $200 million in revenue growth available this year.
Continuing growth of the Iowa economy during a time when there is such pressure on the agriculture industry is something we should all be thankful for. There are reasons for concern though.
Consider just the costs associated with Medicaid. Today, we expect year-over-year costs for Medicaid to increase $206 million. That is a 7.6% increase at a time when revenue is growing at 4.9%.
Taking a more long-term review highlights the severity of the problem. Over the last ten years, the general fund has grown at an annual rate of 4.1%. Meanwhile, Medicaid has grown at an annual rate of 11.7% for a staggering total of 170% growth.
This is not sustainable. Each year Medicaid’s piece of the budget increases and it takes away our opportunities to put resources into other initiatives. We are well on our way to being forced to choose between providing medical services or education for our kids.
Providing tax relief to the hardworking people of Iowa is a priority for many of us in this chamber. I know many of you share my interest in investing in a world-class education system and increasing access to job training. Maybe you want to invest more into infrastructure, school choice, or renewable energy.
These are the kinds of choices that begin to be taken away from our constituents and us when we have an inflexible federal program whose growth outpaces revenue. But challenges present opportunities.
We need to find ways to be more efficient and effective with the resources we have. We need to review our procedures for documentation, waivers, and grant applications.
We need to focus on processes that eliminate fraud and tear down silos. This will allow the administration of services to be as efficient as possible so that more of the resources dedicated to those in need get there.
I continue to believe that if we are going to be successful, we need to insulate ourselves from the inflexibility and inefficiency of federal obligations. Medicaid is the example I have highlighted today, but it permeates many of the programs and policies we will address this year.
We should not be restrained from what we do best, finding Iowa based solutions for Iowa needs.
Remember the federal government does not display the discipline we do here in Iowa. They do not follow our budgeting principles. They recklessly spend without regard for Iowans’ desire to live within our means. This is a dangerous partnership, and if we are not vigilant it could bankrupt both of us.
This General Assembly has the opportunity to accomplish great things that will have a longstanding impact on the future of the great state of Iowa.
We will consider many pieces of legislation over the course of the next several months. You will each contribute to the process with the expertise and experience you bring with you.
The vast majority of the bills that we debate will receive a consensus of support bearing the fingerprints of Democrats and Republicans. Urban legislators and rural legislators. Freshmen legislators… and Jack Drake and Dennis Cohoon.
Our best work is done when we come together to find solutions for the challenges our constituents face. That is the tradition of this chamber, this building, and this state.
Our opportunities are in front of us; let’s get to work!
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.