Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 25, 2014

Budget gimmicks have ended

By Jarad Klein | May 25, 2012

The 2012 Session of the 84th Iowa General Assembly has finally come to an end. We were only three weeks over schedule this year compared to the marathon session last year when we ended on June 30.The best way to sum up my thoughts on the last two years is that I am pleased, but not satisfied. We made progress in many key areas, but there were other issues left unresolved. We had split chambers, which made it difficult to make any progress on significant reforms.

One thing I am very proud of is that we have fundamentally changed the way the government budgets. In the past, legislators, including Republicans, underfunded their previous commitments, spent more than the state was taking in, and used one-time money for ongoing expenses. The old budgeting gimmicks have ended.

When we took charge of the state budget in January of 2011, Gov. Culver had signed the four largest budgets in state history, forced a $500 million property tax increase, borrowed over $800 million that will cost double that to pay back and left a $900 million spending gap for the new governor and Legislature. We were spending more than the state had, borrowing even more, and starting new government programs. We had a big job ahead of us when I was sworn into office last year.

We have led the way toward a healthy and accountable state budget that has measurable results for hardworking taxpayers.

· In FY 11 the state was spending 118 percent of available revenue. In FY 12 we reduced that to 98 percent of available revenue and in FY 13 it will by 97 percent.

· In FY 12 and FY 13 the state will be spending 99 percent of on-going revenue.

· A $900 million spending gap has become $624 million in reserves, $300 in an ending balance and $90 million in the Republican-created Taxpayer Trust Fund. I believe that $390 million should be returned to the taxpayers through broad-based tax relief, and I hope to work toward this in the future.

Despite skepticism, we not only reduced total state spending by $160 million, but the cost of state government to the taxpayer was further reduced by directing state departments to fund a $200 million salary increase (granted by Gov. Culver on his way out the door) within their existing budgets. Additionally, the two-year increase to K-12 education was over $200 million – meaning education was clearly a priority in the state budget.

This is an efficient budget that funds Iowans’ priorities including: education, public safety, health care, fully funding property tax credits, and preserving any ending balance in the Taxpayers Trust Fund.

Iowans deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money and I see it as our duty to cut out waste in government spending so our state government can be more efficient and effective. We’ve passed five bills that cut property taxes, a 20 percent across-the-board income tax cut, an active duty military income tax cut, and we created the Taxpayers Trust Fund which collects any excess revenue and instead of spending it, sends it back to the taxpayers.

Our budgets were crafted with the long-term future of Iowa in mind. The past practices of overspending in one budget year and then slashing budgets with across-the-board cuts the next year are over.

I have been working to bring stability and consistency to education funding so our schools, parents, teachers and administrators can count on budgets that are dependable, not a pendulum. Iowa’s universities saw an increase of$3 million, Community Colleges -- $33 million and K-12 over $200 million.

Property tax reform provides savings for individuals and businesses and it provides certainty for those same people as they plan for their futures. We believe homeowners and businesses should not have to worry about an unpredictable tax bill. They will know exactly what they will pay and how much lower it will be going forward.

Iowa’s employers must have a commitment from their government to keep spending under control so they can plan for the future. The threat of a tax increase prevents investing and hiring.

We have completely eliminated federal bailout and stimulus money from the state budget. Being less reliant on federal money gives Iowans the stability and certainty they deserve.

In summary our budgeting practices are much more transparent, efficient, and stable. I am proud of my work in this area, and I hope to continue to make improvements in our state’s budgeting and appropriations process. We still have much to do in each budget area but I believe there are more places we can find efficiencies.

In the next newsletter I will continue to summarize the two-year session of the 84th General Assembly. If you have any questions of comments please contact me at either jarad.klein@leigs.state.ia.us or 515-281-3221.

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