One of the most important things we do in the state legislature is set the state budget. It is our ultimate oversight to all areas of state government as we can set priorities. Our state budget is around $7 billion per year of state money and about $6 billion of federal money.
Over the past 10-15 years, spending at the federal level has gotten out of control. When President Bush was elected in the year 2000, the national debt was $5.6 trillion. When he left office, the national debt was at $10.2 trillion. Today, our national debt is over $18.1 trillion.
It is scary to think that President Bush added nearly as much to our national debt than the 42 Presidents before him combined. Even scarier, by the time President Obama leaves office he will have added almost as much to the national debt as the 43 Presidents before him combined, including President Bush.
The uncontrollable appetite for spending crosses party lines, administrations and government entities. Although through the leadership of Governor Branstad and Republicans in the legislature we have fought for balanced budgets, I am concerned about the long term spending problems in state government. Our budget continues to grow much faster than household incomes.
The only way to protect against this inherent appetite to spend is to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to our state constitution. This would protect against overspending for years to come.
Currently we have a 99% spending limitation law. While this is a good thing to have, it has two big flaws. First, it is only a law and not in the constitution. With any law, the legislature can “notwithstand” the law and spend more if they want. We cannot ignore the constitution however.
The second major problem with the 99% spending limitation is that the law allows the legislature to spend 99% of ALL available funds. This includes our “savings” account. For the current fiscal year, this means we could spend $7,513,900 even though we “only” will bring in $7,211,800 this year.
To compare it to your household, you would be able to spend 99% of your income from your job, your savings account and your retirement accounts. You could have one heck of a fun year, but the following year you would have major problems with your budget.
While the 99% limitation sounds good in principle, it has flaws that could be fixed by passing a Balanced Budget amendment to our state constitution. I have filed a bill to do so and I hope we can get it passed this year!
I have several core principles that I apply to every decision I make and every vote I cast. Among the most important of these is maintaining fiscal responsibility through limited government. As long as I represent you, I will never support spending more money than we bring in. In addition, I will fight for long-term structural solutions, like this Balanced Budget Amendment, to achieve this very important goal.