Your Capitol Voice: Dem-GOP budget gap workable
by Bobby Kaufmann, State Representative · Op-Ed · May 03, 2013

This week in the House was a budget-heavy week.

The House passed six budget bills and is in the process of receiving other budget bills from the Senate and sending ours to them. I want to spend a large amount of my column explaining the budgeting process and my feelings about it. I want all of you back home to know my philosophy when it comes to spending your hard-earned tax dollars. I invite any comments or questions about my ideas.

The House and Senate, as well as the governor, determines budget targets. This is a beginning negotiation number of what we want to spend for the year. The following were the opening budget targets this year.

For FY14, Senate Democrats are proposing $6.9 billion. This is an 11 percent increase in funding from last year and amounts to $1.05 in spending for every $1 the State takes in.

House Republicans have proposed spending $6.4 billion. This is a 3-percent increase over last year’s spending and amounts to $0.98 in spending for every $1 the state takes in. This creates a $487 million gap we will have to bridge before we can adjourn. This is not an atypical gap and we will close that gap quickly in the next few weeks.

One of the main “sticking points” involves the ending balance. The Senate Democrats generally see the ending balance as extra funds that can be used to increase the budget. Most in the House Republican caucus see at least part of the budget as an over collection of your tax dollars. I am also concerned that we have full Emergency Reserves. The flood of a few years ago should be all that we need to justify that policy.

Are there some great one-time expenditure that we can fund? Absolutely – and I’m very open to worthy projects that help to create jobs or help the most vulnerable in Iowa. I received the message loud and clear last year when I knocked on thousands of doors … you wanted sound, consistent, and predictable budgeting practices.

The problem with spending most of our surplus is that you create an annual commitment. And those dollars often can’t be found in an economically unfriendly year. We have to choose a budget that is sustainable regardless of the economy or this can lead to disastrous mid-year-across the board cuts. Many school officials and other agency heads have told me that sustainability and predictability from year to year is crucial, and the mid-years cuts caused by the overspending of a few years ago are among the worst scenarios to endure.

Every area of need will get an increase this year. Education, health care, the environment, public safety – every area will see an increase in funding. In fact our increases to the Universities will lead to no tuition increases for our students and families this year. Being fiscally responsible and making sure the state is set up for annual healthy budgets is better in the long run for the areas that depend on state money.

I firmly believe that any of you reading this – seniors, families, business owners — I believe you make better decisions than government as to investment and spending and risk. When families, businesses, and entrepreneurs buy things for their businesses, homes, and communities, it creates an economic strength that provides the state with more money and helps to create jobs and income.

My budgeting philosophy aside, the House will pass budget bills with a 3-percent increase in spending; the Senate will pass budget bills with an 11 percent increase. We have to work together to come up with a compromise. I believe divided government can work. I look forward to working with Senator Dvorsky and his colleagues to come up with a responsible way to spend your dollars so we can complete our business you sent us here to do. It will be a hectic final weeks because along with the budget gap, we have to find agreement on education, property taxes, Medicaid, and eminent domain.

This week Facebook chose Iowa for its next state-of-the-art data center location. They plan to invest $300 million, creating hundreds of construction jobs followed by dozens of full-time operational jobs at an average rate of $23.12 per hour. The 194-acre site will accommodate up to two more data center buildings that may be built in future phases of this project. A wind energy project might also be built in conjunction. I would like to see Iowa become the state of choice for companies looking to expand beyond the west and east coasts and will continue to work to foster an environment that makes that possible. I will do all I can do to bring these kind of jobs to eastern Iowa.

Capitol visitors: Chris and Becky Corbett, Stanwood; Cindy Seehusen, Mechanicsville; Al and Jan Wicks, Edgar and Deb Thornton, Iowa City; Mark Knouse, Wilton; Dan Petersen, Muscatine.

Listening Posts: Saturday, May 4, 1 p.m., Morse Community Club in the village of Morse in Johnson County. Refreshments will be provided.

You may contact Rep. Kaufmann at, 515-281-3221 or 1527 330th St. Wilton, IA, 52778

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