Capitol Update for January 24th

It’s easy for some at the Statehouse to interpret the spreadsheets and explanations of the Governor’s budget.  But to many Iowans, it is hard to figure out just what their tax dollars are paying for.   Below is a chart that shows the major areas where the state would spend the General Fund, if Governor Branstad’s budget would be approved.  It is interesting to note that the six biggest parts of the state budget accounts for over $5.5 billion of spending.  The remaining 15 percent of the budget would fund the rest of state government.

pie budget

Iowa’s Budget Situation – What a Difference Two Years Makes

With the release of Governor Branstad’s FY 2014/2015 budget proposal, the success of fiscal discipline and operating with budgeting principles has been reconfirmed.  With some trying to rewrite history to change Iowans’ perception of what happened, the facts point out where the credit should be given.

Living Within Our Means – It’s a common day fact of life for Iowa families, not spending more than you take in.  For state government, it was a foreign concept.  Going into the 2011 session, the Legislature had spent more than it had taken in for the last five years.  But in the 2011 session, House Republicans made a commitment – the state would not spend more than what it received in on-going revenue.  For the last two years, state spending has been below the state’s on-going revenue number.  This is not expected to change in the next two years as Iowa continues to see strong revenue growth and responsible budgeting.

The Budget Gap – As part of its analysis each fall, the Legislative Services Agency provides for legislators an estimate of the built-in expenditures as compared to projected state revenues and ending balances.  When the Legislature convened in January of 2010, it was faced with a budget gap of $1.070 billion dollars.  For the FY 2014 budget, the LSA analysis determined that there was not a budget gap.  In fact if the Legislature simply funded LSA’s projected expenditure growth, the state would have an ending balance of $789 million at the end of FY 2014.

Reserve Funds – When the 2011 session began, it had been three fiscal years since the state’s two reserve funds – Cash Reserve Fund and Economic Emergency Fund – had been filled to their required level of ten percent of the state budget.  The funds were created to ensure that the state pays schools and its employees on time, but that ability was being challenged by the Legislature’s use of these funds for on-going spending.  Since House Republicans assumed control in January 2011, the two reserve funds have been filled to the required levels and the Taxpayers Trust Fund (created in 2011) has received its first deposit of $60 million.

While some may wish to give credit to those who made the problem worse, Iowans know that the state’s fiscal standing has improved greatly thanks to a growing Iowa economy and the fiscal discipline displayed over the past years at the Statehouse.  That fiscal discipline came about due to a principled stand by House Republicans.

Education Reform Subcommittee Meetings Begin

A subcommittee of seven members met for the first time this week to begin discussing this year’s “education reform” bill.  Introduced by the Governor last week, the bill looks to change teacher pay and career ladder options across the entire state.

The subcommittee took on a listening posture during the meeting, bringing in members of a task force that met over the summer to craft the bulk of this plan.  Testifying before the committee and advocating for the bill were a former teacher and current school improvement leader, a high school teacher, a superintendent, a university president, and a former legislator/teacher/current business owner.

Additionally, the committee heard from the public and representatives of various interest groups.  This included:  the Chamber Alliance, School Administrators of Iowa, the Board of Educational Examiners, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI), the Urban Education Network, the Iowa Business Council, and Master Builders of Iowa.  All supported the bill.

Consensus seems to be the key word surrounding the bill so far.  The task force members made sure to point out that every idea in the bill received unanimous support from the full task force.

Now the subcommittee members will start going below the surface to examine the legislative language before them to ensure this is a plan that Iowans can be proud of.  The subcommittee is scheduled to meet twice next week to go through the bill language.

Recap of Week Two

This week I have been busy with meeting and events! I also got to see many people from the district here in Des Moines, which is always a treat. On Tuesday, I had lunch with members of the Monticello city council and gave them a tour of the House chamber. In my Environmental Protection committee meeting this week, the committee members heard from two leaders of Soil conservation districts about the state of Iowa’s water and soil quality efforts, as well as budgeting requests. As chairman of the committee I’m looking forward to working with them and Iowans to come up with a responsible budget while also adequately taking take of Iowa’s conservation needs. The 2013 Iowa Pork Congress Banquet was this week in Des Moines. Many people in district 96 here honored with awards. Tim Fellinger of Hopkinton and Craig and Karen Wulfekuhle of Earlville were honored with the Master Pork Producers Award. The outgoing 2012 Iowa Pork Queen, Lindsay Reth, is from Manchester. Ken Ries of Ryan was also elected to the State Pork Board. I wish congratulations to them and thank them for their service.

I will be attending a forum sponsored by the Delaware County Farm Bureau on February 2nd from 10:00 am to 11:30 am. The forum will be held at the Farm Bureau office in Manchester located at 115 E. Delaware Street. I hope to see you there.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or by phone at (515) 281-7330.

Rep. Lee Hein

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