Session Recap – Budget Successes
At the conclusion of each legislative session, there is a chance to reflect, and to begin to gain perspective on our work. The greatest task for each legislative session is putting together the state budget, and on that job, we have seen perhaps our greatest successes.
After the 2010 elections, Iowa was at the end of the four largest budgets in state history. When we began our work last year, the state budget spent $1.18 for every dollar in tax revenue. Our job was to restore fiscal responsibility to the budget, and stop spending more money than the state collects in revenue.
We have been tremendously successful. Not only have we held the line on spending, the real cost of government to the taxpayers has decreased significantly. Part of responsible budgeting also means asking the state to live up to its commitments. This year’s budget does not intentionally underfund specific programs so that we can overspend in other areas. Here are the highlights:
• We reduced total state spending by $160 million, and did not ask taxpayers to fund the $200 million salary increase granted by Governor Culver before he left office.
• The budget now fully funds our K-12 schools, rather than underfunding those obligations, and asking local property taxpayers to pick up the slack.
• Our budget no longer includes the use of one-time money for ongoing obligations. We did not scoop money out of segregated accounts or reserve funds just to grow government.
• We also now have a budget that does not use federal stimulus dollars for our ongoing operations.
• Over the past two years, we have fixed a $900 million dollar spending gap.
• We now have our reserve funds full
• We put $90 million dollars in to the newly created Taxpayer Trust Fund
• And we now have a $390 million dollar budget surplus ready to be returned to the taxpayers.
These budgets were put together not only to save tax dollars, but to put the state on solid fiscal ground for the future. Past legislatures would often go on a spending spree one year, then be forced to make across-the-board cuts the next. Our budget gives the state and the taxpayers stability and certainty going forward.
The hard work of fixing this budget usually doesn’t grab a front-page headline, but represents the majority of our efforts. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am proud of the work we’ve done for the taxpayers of Iowa. We’ve made Iowa a stronger place, and set ourselves up for future success.