Under the Golden Dome, Too – Week Nineteen

Upmeyer UTGD

The 2013 legislative session has officially adjourned.  Throughout this session we remained resolved to do the job the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa sent us to Des Moines to do.

In my role as the House Majority Leader, I was honored to provide closing remarks reflecting on the accomplishments of this session.  As I stated in speech, a little over two years ago, my 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 rollercoaster.  We spent every dollar we had and were only limited by the maximum the law allowed.

This meant we were ill-prepared to handle a downturn in the economy.  It meant the 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 did not keep them.

I am proud to serve as the Leader of a caucus who committed to changing the 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 accomplished this by adhering to some common sense budgeting principles you are all now hopefully familiar with:

  • We will not spend more than we take in;
  • We will not use one-time revenue for ongoing expenses;
  • We will not intentionally underfund programs simply to fix the problem down the road; and
  • We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.

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 can also be difficult.

It is remarkable that we have been able to reach bipartisan agreement on a budget that grows at a very responsible rate of three percent.  While the law allows us to spend 99 percent 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, which 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 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 yet another example of employing a common sense approach, just like Iowans do.

This session is truly historic thanks to the incredible bipartisan work that has been done.  When we opened 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 toward 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 at the Capitol this year, and confident that the state is in a strong position for the days ahead.

As always, please feel free to contact me anytime with the issues you care about at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or 515-281-4618.