The 2011 Session of the 84th General Assembly adjourned on Thursday, June 30, just hours before the end of the 2011 fiscal year. The 172 day session was the third longest in the history of the state of Iowa. We made a great deal of progress this year toward protecting taxpayers and restoring fiscal discipline to state government, yet there remains much work to be done.
Throughout my time in the legislature, I have advocated for a budget that does not spend any more money than the state collects in revenue. In recent years, government has spent too much and saved too little, leaving each of us to pay the bill. Beginning this year, we have changed course and we have chosen the road back to fiscal responsibility.
This year’s state budget will spend just $0.97 for every dollar collected in taxes. This is a stark contrast to last year, when government overspent at $1.18 for every dollar collected.
We accomplished this change in spending habits by making tough choices, and not simply shifting the burden to property tax payers, as has been done in the past. This year’s budget spends over $200 million in new money for K-12 education, to backfill previous underfunding and shifting to property taxes.
Another big success for this year was the creation of the Taxpayers Trust Fund, which gives the taxpayer a permanent seat at the table. The new fund captures up to $60 million of excess revenue, which has been overpaid by Iowa taxpayers. This fund provides a vehicle to return this money to the taxpayer, rather than have these tax dollars consumed by the state for new spending. The Ways and Means Committee will be tasked with planning the use of this fund when we come back in January.
The legislature also passed the first phase in the reform of adult mental health systems in Iowa. This was a bipartisan effort to make sure that all Iowans have equal access to mental health care services. Ultimately, we will craft a redesigned system to deliver necessary services to all Iowans, regardless of where they live.
Despite several legislative successes, it was frustrating to see so many of the bills we passed out of the House die in the Senate. The House advanced legislation to reform Iowa’s collective bargaining laws, passed a 20% income tax cut, and moved several bills dealing with educational reform, to mention just a few.
I very much appreciate the ideas and input that I have received over the past six months. It has been an honor to serve at the Capitol this year, and I am excited for what we can still accomplish in the future. As always, please feel free to contact me anytime.