House Republicans — On Target

This week the House approved an allowable growth rate for Fiscal Year 2012. Allowable growth is the percentage at which the state’s per-pupil funding for education is allowed to increase. Due to underfunding from previous legislatures, a zero percent growth rate still increases state funding for education. Therefore, the House set the rate at zero percent, which put $216 million in new money into Iowa’s schools.

To prevent an increase on property taxpayers due to declining enrollments, Republicans also approved a bill which has the state assume the responsibility.

In previous years, property taxpayers were forced to pick up the cost of increased funding. Many Iowans are seeing the result in their property tax bills. However, Republicans are committed to fully-funding the state’s share of allowable growth to stop saddling property taxpayers with a growing burden.

Iowans expect the Legislature to make education a priority. They also expect a budget that does not spend more than the state takes in. I believe we can do both.

At a time when most of state government is getting cut, education is an area where there will be an increase in funding. A zero percent growth rate for schools is the most responsible action the Legislature can take with the state facing a $700 million budget gap.

Also this week, House Republicans released our budget targets. Our plan spends $350 million (5.5%) less than Democrats approved and Gov. Culver signed last year.

The Democrats spent $6.3 billion in total state spending last year through a combination of general fund and one-time sources of revenue. This was a massive increase in state spending over previous years, which House Republicans pointed out at the time, was not sustainable.

The House Republicans’ plan spends $5.9 billion in general fund money, $100 million in Health Care Trust Fund dollars and ZERO dollars in one-time money.

Some key points to our budget plan:
-It does not spend more than the state takes in
-It is open, transparent and sustainable
-It provides for priority services in the areas of education, health and human services and public safety.
-It provides for $383 million in tax relief

The budget plan comes on the heels of the Taxpayers First Act which was approved by the House in January. The TFA reduced state spending by over half a billion dollars in the next three years. In addition, it sets aside $383 million in a Tax Relief Fund so that any additional one-time money the state receives at year-end goes to the taxpayer first rather than more government spending. This does not mean we’re taking current money out of the system for tax relief – it means we’re using the surplus dollars, the money that is Iowans’ in the first place, and sending it back to them.

With this budget, House Republicans have given the taxpayers a seat at the table again.