In the past few days, literally hundreds of thousands of viewers – many from here in Iowa – have tuned in to watch the seemingly every move of a young family of eagles on a webcam situated near Decorah.
This fascinating real time look at the hatching of three eagle eggs and the capturing of every moment in their lives has captured the curiosity and imagination of many.
Unfortunately, the same interest does not exist with what is happening in the Iowa Legislature.
In fact, one could argue there is more going on in that giant nest in Decorah than under the great golden dome in Des Moines.
Yet, before lawmakers do leave for the year, some critical decisions will need to be made that will affect the lives of every citizen, taxpayer and employer.
Up to this point, the split control of government is yielding plenty of gridlock and very little in terms of tangible and meaningful results.
So what is the hang up?
Here is a brief overview of five big fiscal issues (among others) yet to be resolved:
Governor Branstad’s two-year budget proposal
- Governor Branstad is insistent on the Legislature passing a two-year budget in order for the state to better plan and manage its finances into the future. While House Republicans have so far passed some budget legislation that includes two-year budgets, Senate Democrats continue to strip out the second year. Governor Branstad has made it clear very publically that he will veto any budget bill that does not include a second year.
Republicans spending less than Democrats
- Republicans believe Iowans sent a strong message last November that the unsustainable spending, higher tax and unacceptable unemployment policies of the last four years must end. As such, nearly every budget bill passed by the House Republicans has spent less money than budget bills passed by Senate Democrats so far this session.
- In nearly all cases, the House and Senate are passing budget bills that are not at all in agreement with each other. Before Governor Branstad can sign the budget into law, both chambers must approve identical budget bills.
Responsible spending for our schools and students
- Education spending is also still an unresolved issue. Republicans want to set allowable growth at zero percent while Democrats want to set it at two percent. If allowable growth is kept at zero, schools would still get $286 million above what they got last year after Governor Culver’s 10 percent across the board cut. However, Democrats want to keep spending more money and add more to our already heavy property tax burdens without doing any meaningful education policy reform to increase student achievement.
- Republicans also believe we need to make serious upgrades to our pre-school system because the current set-up is unsustainable for the long-term. Republicans believe funding for pre-school should be based on economic need and there should be more school choice. Democrats believe the expensive status quo should be maintained so that even children of millionaires get free pre-school.
Iowans Need and Want Lower Taxes
- Governor Branstad and House and Senate Republicans all campaigned last year on bringing about real and badly needed tax relief – whether that is property taxes, income taxes or corporate taxes. Fundamentally, Republicans believe Iowans should be able to keep more of their money. Legislative Democrats would prefer the government have that money in order to allow for more government spending.
- Several property tax proposals will likely still be part of the discussion at the end of the session. In addition, a bill to couple Iowa’s tax code with the federal tax code and create a Taxpayer Relief Fund is being held up by Democratic legislators who would rather spend than save or give the state’s ending balance back to its rightful owners – the taxpayers of Iowa.
Private Sector Job Creation
- In order to create jobs, we must have a competitive tax and regulatory climate, good education system and leadership willing to sell and market our state. That’s where the “Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress” would enter in. This would be a public-private partnership and would allow the state to be more aggressive in pursuing entrepreneurs, job creators and businesses of all sizes. This proposal has already overwhelmingly passed the Iowa House with bi-partisan support but has yet to get a full debate in the Senate.
These five big issues (and others) offer Iowans a bright line of difference between the two parties.
Ask yourself these three questions:
- Should Iowans get to keep more of their own money?
- Should we keep government from getting bigger and more intrusive?
- Should we put the focus back on private sector job creation?
Republicans believe the answer to all three of those questions is a resounding “YES!”
Throughout this session, we have kept our promise to the voters to focus on lower taxes, less spending, smaller government and an environment where private sector job creation can flourish again.
We hope, in the coming weeks, our friends in the other party will join with us and offer their bi-partisan support.
Though the eagles are fascinating, what happens here in Des Moines in the coming weeks could have major implications for the future of the state.
The Legislature may be worth watching as well.
As always, I welcome hearing from you and can be reached by phone at 515-281-3560 or by e-mail at [email protected]
Senate Republican Leader
*Please consider forwarding this important message on to your friends and family!