Last week a pivotal point in the Legislative session was reached. The first legislative funnel is a deadline for Legislators. In order to be eligible for consideration later in session, a bill must be passed out of a Senate or House Committee during the first funnel week. Any bills that were introduced previously but did not receive Senate or House Committee approval by Friday last week are now considered dead and ineligible for debate.
There are exceptions to this rule, including Ways and Means and Appropriations bills; they are not subject to any funnel deadlines. This means that bills in these committees can be introduced at any time and still come before the full Senate and House for approval and be signed into law by the Governor. Ways and Means and Appropriations Committees are where most tax and spending bills originate, so ITR carefully keeps watching for new bills until the session ends. This also means that income tax relief is still on the table even though no substantial bill has passed out of committee at this point.
A second funnel will occur in several more weeks. The second funnel requires bills be passed out of both a Senate and House Committee in order to be eligible later in the session.
Funnel deadlines place some pressure on Legislators, but they serve an important purpose. Funnel weeks allow Legislators to narrow their focus for the session and concentrate on bills that have a better opportunity of passing both chambers and being signed into law. By narrowing the scope of bills eligible for consideration, Legislators gain more time to focus on the budget which must be approved before the end of session.
The state general fund budget for fiscal year 2016 (which begins July 1, 2015) is a key task for Legislators and it provides many opportunities to stand firm for the taxpayers. Senate and House leadership have yet to announce their own budget targets, but Governor Branstad has already proposed a budget of $7.3 billion, a 5% increase from the current fiscal year. And much more big spending is outside this budget, including nearly $2 billion for roads.
Iowans for Tax Relief believes this increase is far too high. The proposed 5% increase hugely exceeds the national inflation rate and the Iowa wage growth rate. Government should not be growing at a faster rate than Iowans’ household budgets. Legislators should take the time to carefully examine this big spending increase and the entire state general fund, and look for areas to cut back.
Let’s find and cut the excessive spending and the nice-but-not-essential spending. Legislators, do the hard work that Iowans must do with their family budgets!