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ITR: State budget progress is slow

Budgeting PhotoBy Iowans for Tax Relief

 

The Iowa Legislature is currently at a stalemate.  Last week showed little progress on the budget, the main task Legislators must complete before adjourning this session.  This is especially concerning because Legislators have just two weeks before the Legislative session is scheduled to adjourn.   Legislators can go into overtime session and often have done so in recent years.  However, it does not forecast good things for taxpayers when Legislators stay longer and have more time to consider unnecessary and costly bills.

While actual progress on budget bills was slow last week, Senate Democrats did announce a budget target of $7.341 billion for fiscal year 2016 which will begin July 1, 2015.  This number is exactly in line with Governor Branstad’s budget that was presented in January.  It would be a 5% increase from the current fiscal year’s budget.  Iowans for Tax Relief believes that 5% increase is far too high.

House Republicans, on the other hand, have announced a lower budget target of $7.175 billion, after the Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference released a revised tax collection projection of $19 million less than what was previously predicted.  The House budget target would ensure that the state spends less than what it takes in.  It is also a 3% increase in spending from this fiscal year.

Iowans for Tax Relief believes a 3% increase is too high, but in comparison with the 5% proposed by the Governor and the Senate, it is a more responsible budget that does less harm to the taxpayers.  Unfortunately, usual Legislative behavior would produce a compromise somewhere between a 3% and 5% increase, rather than a pro-taxpayer budget that would limit the spending increase to the rate of inflation.

These two proposed budgets are $166 million apart, leaving many areas of compromise for Senate and House leadership to sort out.  One of the biggest differences between the two budget figures is the percentage increase in state aid for K-12 education.  House Republicans remain committed to a 1.25% increase while Senate Democrats now favor a 2.625% increase.  Leadership agreeing on the education increase will be a key factor in reaching a final overall budget compromise.

Iowans for Tax Relief urges Legislators to put the taxpayers first this session as budget negotiations move forward.  Iowa has an opportunity to stand firm and enact a budget that is fiscally responsible or take unwise steps toward more spending and less financial stability.  The taxpayers of Iowa are counting on Legislators to hold each other accountable and not to cave to the pressure of big-spending bureaucrats and politicians.  Now is the time for Legislators to prove that they can put the taxpayers first by spending less and enacting a budget that puts Iowa’s financial future on more stable ground.

 

Taxpayer-Funded Lobbyists

ITR has long argued that local governments’ associations (Iowa League of Cities, Iowa State Association of Counties, and Iowa Association of School Boards) should be prohibited from lobbying, but allowed to provide information if requested by a Legislative Committee.  They all are funded with taxpayer dollars.  It’s wrong to tax Iowans to pay for lobbying for higher taxes and more spending.

Recently the Des Moines Register highlighted the problems with one of these associations and its lack of transparency.  The Register called for the Iowa League of Cities (ILC) to be labeled as a public body so they would be subject to open records and open meetings laws.  We applaud the Register’s stand on this issue and ask the Legislature to demand accountability from groups like the Iowa League of Cities.  What is ILC hiding?

ILC calls itself an “instrumentality of government” but is using taxpayer dollars to promote city governments’ interests and raise taxes on Iowans!  ITR calls on our Legislators to stop taxpayer-funded lobbying and to require these taxpayer-funded groups to comply fully with open records and open meetings laws.