Photo credit: Sarah Brooks

Iowa State Capitol December 2014On a daily basis, I receive requests from my constituents to support common sense legislation which would help move Iowa forward as a state. In fact, I support many of the ideas promoted, as do a majority of Iowans and a majority of my Senate colleagues. However, the Senate voted on Wednesday evening to give all power to bring bills to the floor to Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal.

Senate Republicans offered an amendment to the rules which would allow any bill that received 26 signatures, a bipartisan bill supported by a majority of Senators representing a majority of Iowans, to be brought to the floor for a debate. This change in the rules would be a return to the rules under which the Senate operated when prior to 2011 – rules which allowed good ideas to be discussed and decisions to be made by a majority of elected officials instead of just one Senator. The amendment was voted down on party lines, and the Iowa State Senate became an autocratic body, no longer the representative body Iowans intended it to be.

Both Chambers Set Supplemental State Aid

Both the House and Senate Education Committee have established the percent of Supplemental State Aid to support ongoing school functions at the local level. This places both chambers within the legal statutory requirement, but because the numbers are not the same, the process will likely continue to a conference committee to find the final number.

It is of the utmost importance we focus on the sustainability of the number we choose and avoid the missteps of past Legislatures. Revenues have only grown $350 million over last budget year, and nearly 25 percent of that new revenue in the proposed budget goes toward education; that rate of growth is unsustainable. If we look at 2010, the Legislature passed 4 percent allowable growth, and the burden ended up falling on the taxpayer, and the State of Iowa not being able to honor its commitments resulted in a 10 percent across-the-board cut that ultimately resulted in more hardships placed upon our rural school districts. Cash reserves were all but drained because of that budget crisis.

Six times since fiscal year 2002, the Legislature has failed school districts by overpromising allowable growth to the tune of almost $600 million. Overpromising Supplemental State Aid is not only unsustainable; it is to the detriment of our local school districts and our children. That being said, we also need to be to mindful of the many districts that will be on budget guarantee if the rate is established at a level too low to counteract declining enrollments.

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