Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
A little over two years ago the House Republican caucus set out on a mission. We wanted to address the fundamental problems in the budget process.
For too long, and at the hands of Democrats and Republicans alike, the state’s budget resembled a roller coaster. One with steep inclines that inevitably led to even steeper declines.
We spent every dollar we had and were only limited by the maximum the law allowed for. This meant we were ill prepared to handle a downturn in the economy.
It meant that government grew, without regard for the income of Iowans. It meant that we had to borrow money. It meant fees had to be increased to raise revenue. It meant that the state made commitments and it did not keep them.
I am proud to serve as the Leader of a caucus who committed to change course. We committed to being limited by common sense, not the minimum standards of the law. We committed to putting the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa first. We committed to retiring debt, not accumulating it.
We have done this by adhering to some common sense budgeting principles.
- We will not spend more than we take in.
- We will not intentionally underfund obligations to balance the budget.
- We will not use one-time funds for ongoing expenses.
- We will return the over collection of taxes to the taxpayers.
Now I know you all have heard those before, but if you subscribe to the “rule of 7” from the advertising world, those principles are just about ready to sink in!
I admire my caucus for sticking to these principles. It certainly is not the easy thing to do. Not when the siren song of “more spending” can be heard coming from all directions inside and outside the Capitol. Like most things in life however, the right thing to do is also difficult.
It is remarkable that we have been able to reach a bipartisan agreement on a budget that grows at a very responsible rate of 3 percent. While the law allows us to spend 99% of all funds available, that would equal 18 percent growth in one year and would unsustainably build ongoing expenses into the baseline. Instead, we are spending 99 percent of ongoing revenue. That amounts to 88 percent of all available funds and ensures a strong financial position for our state.
Two years ago, we came together and established the Taxpayer Trust Fund. This was set up to capture unused revenue and send it back to the taxpayers. Today we move forward by establishing the mechanism by which that money is sent back to the taxpayer.
This is not a one-time deal. This is a permanent mechanism that will kick in anytime the state collects more in taxes than it needs. This is another sign that the mindset is changing when it comes to the budget. We must spend wisely and we must continue to put the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa first.
As a result of a strong economy and sound budgeting practices, we have found ourselves in a position to do things that seemed impossible a few short years ago. Rather than accumulating debt, we are retiring it.
We are using available funds to pay off bonds and shore up our pension systems. This is another example of employing a common sense approach, just like Iowans do at home.
This session is truly historic thanks to the incredible bipartisan work that has been done. When we opened this session, I asked that we set an example of the best in public service. Washington D.C.’s divisive politics have no place here. This session we have shown that there is a better way.
Working together towards common goals means we can achieve great things. It means in one session we can pass education reform, healthcare reform and historic property tax relief. All the while, adhering to sound budgeting principles that started as reforms but are now the new standard practice of the legislature.
Iowans can be proud of the progress that has been made here this year, and confident that the state is in a strong position for the days ahead.
Ladies and gentlemen of the House, thank you for your hard work. Thank you for your contribution on behalf of the good people of your districts. It is truly an honor to serve with you.
To those that keep this building running and always beautiful, thank you.
I want to thank everyone in LSA and the Chief Clerk’s office. Your hard work and expertise elevates the work we do here.
Thank you to Minority Leader McCarthy, the House Democrat caucus and your staff for your hard work and dedication.
Thank you to Governor Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and your team for your dedication to the great state of Iowa.
Thank you to our staff: Jeff, Brad, Jason, Amanda, Carrie, Colin, Kristi, Lew, Dustin, Louis, Terri, Josie, Doug, Tony and Angie. You guys are the best at what you do!
To my caucus, thank you for your steadfast focus and your hard work. The state is better for it. To the leadership team: Steve, Chris, Matt, Jeff, Joel and Walt, thank you for your support and counsel.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for your friendship and your leadership.