Capitol Update May 29, 2015

Still Working to End the Session

As of this week, there is still no final decision on the state budget.  As negotiations continue in Des Moines, I thought I’d provide an update for you on what the major holdup are and why.

Every year, the governor lays out his proposed budget to the legislature and Iowans in January when the session begins.  This kicks off the budget process where the House and Senate work to craft a budget taking into consideration the needs of Iowans, the wants of government Departments and the suggestions of various groups and organizations.

Since the Republicans took control of the House, we have operated on a few distinct budget principles, which I’m sure you’ve heard me repeat over and over by now.  As we began crafting our House budget back in January, we used these principles as a guide.

  1. We will spend less than the state collects;
  2. We will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs;
  3. We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs; and
  4. We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.

In March, the Revenue Estimating Conference determined Iowans are sending $7.175 billion to state government coffers.  That is a tremendous amount of money. Spending more than they are sending to the state sets hardworking taxpayers up for either future budget cuts or a tax increase.  Instead of that, the Legislature should simply live within its means.  To that end, House Republicans developed a budget that spends 99.9% ($7.168 billion) of on-going revenue ($7.175 billion) ensuring that government does not spend more than it has and lives within its means.  This is a 2.48% (173.8 million) increase over FY15.  The Senate Democrat plan spends 102.5% (7.341 billion) of on-going revenue.  That is a 4.73% ($347 million) increase over FY 15.

Once both chambers had passed their budgets a few weeks ago, negotiations on the final budget began – starting roughly $200 million apart.  The main sticking point is Democrats want to spend more than Republicans.  Despite this major difference, there are regular meetings in Des Moines to find compromise and work together on a budget that is responsible and sustainable.  I’ve heard from several of you that you’re aggravated at the apparent lack of action at the Capitol.  I understand that, but this is a process and while it can be frustrating at times, it should also be very deliberate and careful when it comes to spending your money.

Going forward, I assure you I will not waiver from the principles that have served our state well.  Just like Iowa families balance the checkbook at home, they also expect the same from their government.  Every dollar the state spends that we don’t have jeopardizes the financial security of Iowa taxpayers and families.  I know you expect us to pass a responsible budget and that is a commitment I will deliver on.

As I am putting the finishing touches on this newsletter, I am hearing that there has been an agreement on the big number (overall total spending).  If this agreement holds through the week, it could mean the end is near.  It will be a big week with lots of discussion and debate. If everything goes as planned, the next newsletter could be my end of session report.

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.state.ia.us or by phone at (319) 480-1997.

Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein

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