Under the Golden Dome, Too – April 17

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A great deal of floor action was completed this week that creates opportunities and solutions for Iowans, ranging from simplifying tax issues to improving our mental health system. We also passed the first budget bill of the session to the Senate. As we transition our focus to the appropriations process, many discussions surrounding the state budget are taking place. With so many different proposals to consider, it’s essential to remind ourselves about the importance of making wise budgeting decisions and how easily poor budgeting choices can hurt our entire state.

Majority Leader Upmeyer met with sixth grade students from Hampton-Dumont School at the Capitol this week. The students were able to meet their legislators and tour the historic Capitol building during their visit.

Majority Leader Upmeyer met with sixth grade students from Hampton-Dumont School at the Capitol this week. The students were able to meet their legislators and tour the historic Capitol building during their visit.

It wasn’t too long ago that we saw the ramifications of using irresponsible budgeting gimmicks to balance the state budget. Back in 2011, prior to us gaining the Majority in the House, due to careless budgeting decisions and spending more dollars than we had available, Iowans saw a $500 million property tax increase, the state borrowed over $800 million that costs double to pay back, and there was a $700 million spending gap left for the new governor and legislature to fix.

We dug the state out of that mess by adopting a set of core budgeting principles that we have stuck to ever since. We refuse to spend more than we take in; we will not use one-time revenue for ongoing expenses; and we will not intentionally underfund promises made to Iowans simply to fix the problem down the road.

The reckless spending decisions and overpromises of the past also resulted in deep across-the-board cuts for our schools in 2009 and 2010, leaving them in an unfair position to deal with the consequences of the state’s poor decisions. Like many of you, I am frustrated we haven’t made progress on the issue of education funding this year. However, we do not want to put taxpayers and schools in the same position we were in just six years ago. We are determined to pass what we can afford.

I am extremely disappointed this has become a political game that we simply have never been interested in playing. Back in January, we proposed a $100 million increase in funding for Iowa’s school districts. It was the first bill passed out of the House, because it is such a high priority. This is a significant increased investment for our schools and it is what we can afford.

Others have proposed a $150 million increase for schools, but cannot find a way to fund this amount without spending more than we take in. Every Iowan understands if you start spending more than you take in, you’re going to have a problem. If the state spends more than it takes in, we will be back next year with schools once again facing deep budget cuts because state revenue won’t be there to support the increases. We are protecting Iowans against repeating history.

Despite having fewer resources this year, we have worked hard to provide schools with greater flexibility in their budgets. These bills include providing more options to be used for a school’s management levy and dropout prevention/at-risk funding programs. We will continue to work on ways to cut some of the strings currently tied to school funding.

I am hopeful the education funding debate will soon be resolved. As we move forward this session, have no doubt we will remain committed to crafting a responsible and affordable state budget.

Thank you for your feedback over the past several weeks. Please continue to contact me with your thoughts and questions throughout the remainder of the session. I can be always be reached at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or 515-281-4618.

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