Thank you Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen of the House, and guests, welcome to the 85th General Assembly.
It was humbling to walk into the Capitol this morning, walking past so much history, with the realization that I once again have been given the privilege of serving my neighbors and my state.
To the people of my district, thank you for this opportunity. I will humbly work to exceed the oath I have just taken. To the members of my caucus, thank you for entrusting me to once again serve as your majority leader. Our duty is to the people we serve, let the history encased in this building be a reminder of that.
A special thank you to my family. Without your support, and often your own sacrifices, I would not be able to serve.
We have a lot of new faces in the chamber today. I am looking forward to getting to know and work with each of you. In this chamber I see a group of people with diverse experiences and unique paths, which have all led to this place today. It is the convergence of our unique perspectives with which Iowans anticipate we will tackle the tough issues facing our state.
We are all here to do important work on behalf of Iowans. We should not be afraid to share ideas. We should not be afraid to debate. It is healthy for ideas in this building to receive a spirited discussion and vetting. We should embrace a civil and open dialogue.
Each and every one of you should be proud of the responsibility your constituents have entrusted you with. Do not let the hectic nature of session days obscure your purpose.
I am afraid that our leaders in Washington may have lost that focus. People in Iowa and around the country are losing their faith in government. They are losing faith in the ability of good men and women to tackle issues head on.
They see a Congress afraid to debate issues openly or operate transparently by passing a budget. They see runaway spending as the nation’s debt burden reaches nearly inconceivable levels. They watch health care costs skyrocket yet no reforms to slow it.
They see lip service paid to the burden of overregulation only to watch onerous rules continue to proliferate under overzealous agencies. Our farmers are busy feeding the world and yet doubt is cast over their industry because of the failure to pass a farm bill.
The so-called “fiscal cliff” epitomized why so many are losing faith. Allegedly, Washington was finally forced to confront its own fiscal crisis. The result? More taxes, MORE debt, and they kicked as many cans down the road as they could.
If you feel anything like me then you are probably ready to tell them to get out of our way and let the states handle it!
It is my hope that the 85th General Assembly of Iowa may serve as an example of the best in public service. Iowans can be proud that we do not have the same problems that plague Washington.
In fact, we have the opportunity to show Washington what happens when we focus not on our differences, but on our common goals. Let’s work together to identify the problems we face and focus on solutions.
An area where we should be able to come together is educating our youth. There was a time when the education system in Iowa evoked pride. Today however, it raises mostly concern.
We are concerned about the quality and rigor of the education our children are receiving. We are concerned that students are not graduating with the mastery necessary to succeed in college. We are concerned that our students are not graduating with the skills needed to enter the workforce and that increasingly our students must compete with not just those from other states, but other nations.
We must be resolved to address our education system. We should be open to new approaches and focused on measureable results. If we continue to fall behind, our children will find it difficult to compete and our employers will be left to look elsewhere for a skilled workforce.
Revitalizing our education system is one of the great opportunities of this General Assembly.
The citizens of Iowa have told us they are unhappy with the unsustainable growth of property taxes. If we continue to do nothing, our commercial rates will continue to drive away business, and homeowners will bear the burden of historic increases thanks to the roll up. Most of us in the room recognized that and campaigned on addressing it.
It is time for the campaign rhetoric to become action. As we do so, we must acknowledge our own poor record of funding property tax credits. We must also appreciate concerns that property tax cuts could shift the burden to other classes of property.
Property tax relief and reform can take many forms. We should be open to many ideas. However, as recognition of our own shortcomings we should ensure that it is significant, predictable and avoids any shift while benefitting all classes of property.
President Ronald Reagan is famous for saying “the problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.” I think we can update that for Iowa in 2013. The problem is not that the state spends too little, the problem is that we collect too much!
We worked hard over the last two years to implement some common sense principles into the budgeting process. Thanks to the hard work of Iowans and these sound budgeting practices, we find the state’s finances in a healthy position.
This is tenuous however, so we must be vigilant. This starts by sticking to our budgeting principles of not spending more than we take in, not balancing the budget by intentionally underfunding obligations and not using one time funds to pay for ongoing expenses.
We can build on our success by adding another principle. We should return unused tax dollars back to the taxpayers of Iowa. The state is funding its obligations. Bipartisan budgets over the last two years have ensured that. Yet we have an ending balance.
Rather than looking for ways to spend that money, we should give it back to whom it belongs. It is the hard-working taxpayers of Iowa who earned that money and it is they who can best invest it back into our state. Please resist the urge to grow government with that money, it might not always be there.
At a time when the federal government is fighting over how to take more money, I look forward to spending our time on how to return it. Which is why I think Iowa is positioned to be a leader in the nation and to provide a shining example of the best in public service.
Again, it is truly an honor to be back in this beautiful Capitol building. Welcome back to the people’s House! Let’s get to work!
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.