Word of the Day – March 25, 2009

Word of the Day
eggtaggle – The act of wasting time in bad company.
John Jamieson’s Etymological Scottish Dictionary, 1808

Budget Big Picture

  • The global Democratic target of $5.8 billion represents a 4 percent reduction compared to adjusted FY 2009. However, the 99 percent expenditure limitation only allows spending of $5.7 billion. That means Democrats must come up with at least $105 million in transfers or tax increases in order to balance the budget.
  • Even with these new numbers, remember that the two budgets Governor Culver and the Democrats have approved over the last two legislative session are the highest spending and second highest spending budgets in the state’s history.
  • The original and revised FY 09 budget is the first budget to exceed the $6 billion mark. The budget that Gov. Culver and the Democrats will approve this session will be the third highest spending budget (not counting the stimulus money) and will be almost a half a billion dollars more than the last budget approved by Governor Vilsack and House Republicans.
  • If Democrats simply went back and approved the last budget House Republicans approved when we were in charge of both chambers (FY 05), the state would have a surplus.

Bonding Plan

Gov. Culver has proposed a $750 million bonding plan that if approved will need to be paid back over 20 years. Some of the project submitted to the Governor’s Office to be included in the plan are:

  • The Tower of Invincibility: A grand tower of at least 10 stories built in the center of Vedic City in Jefferson County that will allow grand vistas of the city in all directions.
  • Bronze Sculptures: Two full-size bronze sculptures of John Bloom’s WPA mural “Shucking Corn” in downtown DeWitt to create an entrance identity for DeWitt.
  • Golf Practice Green Relocation: Relocation , landscaping, bridge replacements and cart path extensions for a golf course in LeMars.
  • Football Coaches Offices: Coaches office addition at the Athletic and Wellness Center at Loras College in Dubuque.
  • Parking Ramp: 392 stall parking ramp for the University of Dubuque.
  • Land for the Des Moines Airport: Purchase of 600 acres for future runway replacement at Des Moines International Airport. NOTE: This would seem to be the opposite of a “shovel-ready” project.
  • Library Book Drop: Constrution of a library addition for a book drop for the library in Newton.

Transparency

  • One the top 2009 priorities for Republicans was approved this week with the passage of the Transparency bill.
  • The bill requires the development of a search budget database on the internet so anyone can track and research state government spending.
  • Republicans added specific requirements to database so departments must disclose inter and intra-departmental transfers and include key details so certain expenditures cannot be hidden under broad line-items like “Miscellaneous spending” or “General Administration.”
  • The bill also includes a searchable database of all tax rates for the state for each taxing jurisdiction. The website is to also include a geographical tax rate map and individual tax rate calculator.

Budget Discussions

  • Republicans believe the Governor and Legislative Democrats should accept their share of the blame for the fiscal mess the state is experiencing. It is not the fault of misguided federal policies, greedy Wall Street bankers or the natural disasters. We must be clear– when we left last May we had already had built ourselves a $563 million shortfall. We now face $1.1 billion shortfall over the next 15 monthes.
  • Republicans are skeptical of the governor’s request to borrow $750 million through bonding. According to the State Auditor, using the RIIF for infrastructure (vertical or horizontal) would provide, in just a 3-year period, more than the $700 million of bonding proposed by the Governor that requires a 20-year payback.
  • If the infrastructure fund was used for what it was intended instead of spending it on various non-infrastructure priorities, this borrowing discussion wouldn’t be happening.

Big Union Bailout

  • “Fair Share” isn’t fair, it is a big union bailout. Unions are failing to retain and grow membership on their own so they are turning to their political allies in the Legislature to save them.
  • “Fair Share” is forced unionism. It forces non-union employees to pay dues to an organization that not only do not belong but also one that may disagree with substantially on political and social issues.
  • House Republican are opposed to the forced payment of union dues by non-union employees. House Republicans are also opposed to forcing unions to represent non-union employees.
  • A representative from SEIU told the Des Moines Register in January that the forced union dues won’t go to cover their costs associated with represented non-union members but instead will go to increased organizing and recruiting.

Doctor Shopping

  • This destroys an employer’s opportunity to contract for health care. As a result insurance premiums will increase greatly.
  • The bill, HF 530, provides that an employee may select their own doctor by having that doctor on file with the employer. There is no requirement that the doctor be a specialist or occupational physician or have any experience or specialty in the injury sustained by the employee.
  • This bill attempts to “fix” a system that is not broken.
  • Iowa workers already enjoy the highest maximum benefits of any state in the Midwest. Iowa’s rate of $1,206 per week outstrips the next highest performer, Minnesota, by $456 per week, and is far ahead of Nebraska, Illinois, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, and Wisconsin. In fact, Iowa is ranked third nationally, behind only the District of Columbia and New Hampshire.

Prevailing Wage

  • The prevailing wage bill favors large contractors at the expense of small rural contractors. The fringe benefit requirements contained in the bill price many small contractors out of the bidding process.
  • The bill requires all contractors to offer fringe benefits such as a pension and vacation. The problem for small rural contractors is that since some of their job will only last a few weeks, instead of paying the fringe benefits they are required to increase the pay of the employee by the same amount.
  • The same Fiscal Note estimated that project costs would increase 10 percent to 12 percent increase due to prevailing wage.
  • The last state to pass prevailing wage legislation was Minnesota, in 1973. Nine states have since repealed their laws, including Ohio. When Ohio repealed the prevailing wage for school construction, the projects saw a 10 percent reduction in project costs.

Other Message Points

  • According to The Des Moines Register, Iowa lost 17,500 jobs in 2008. That is like losing an entire town the size of Coralville. In January, there were over 80,000 Iowans out of work according to Iowa Workforce Development. It is the first time the number of unemployed Iowans has reached 80,000 since September of 1987.
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Dansette