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Upmeyer: Wrapping up another month at the Capitol

From Rep. Linda Upmeyer –

It is hard to believe that we are already wrapping up another month at the Capitol. While the beautiful weather outside is hard to resist, we remain committed to staying under the golden dome to complete the work of the people.

As the legislative session continues on and more bills are brought to the House Floor, we remain focused on legislation that creates jobs in our state, finds savings in the budget, and provides economic certainty to all Iowans. Those are the issues that I hear about most from my constituents and I intend to deliver results.

Iowa Workforce Development recently announced that Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.4% in the month of January. The last time it was this low was April of 2009 when the number was 5.3%. The Revenue Estimating Committee also recently met and predicted an increase in revenue coming to the state. These are encouraging signs that things are improving financially for Iowa’s families and businesses, but there is still much work to be done. We are thankful for an improving economy, but it is still fragile and we need to be responsible in our budgeting practices.

So where do extra dollars go if the state brings in more than what is budgeted?
You may have been hearing that the state has a $1 billion budget surplus, but that is simply not accurate. The so-called surplus is actually a combination of one-time cash reserve funds, one-time ending balance from this year, and on-going revenue growth for next year. The state budget is a little over $6 billion and state law requires that 10% of the budget be set aside in cash reserves and not spent on operations, which means $600 million is off-limits for existing and new spending. Spending any additional dollars of the so-called surplus means spending one-time funds for ongoing expenses- which is a recipe for disaster.

Just like any Iowa family, we are managing the state budget in a manner that will leave us in a good position to weather any unexpected challenges. While we do not know when these unplanned occurrences will come our way, they eventually will, and when they do, our fiscal house must be in order. Any additional revenue after that should be returned to the hard-working taxpayers of Iowa rather than being used to grow government.

In other news, after more than a year, arguments regarding the federal healthcare law were finally considered by the U.S. Supreme Court this week. This comes as the result of a lawsuit filed by 26 states in January of 2011, including Iowa, which challenges the constitutionality of parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The lawsuit specifically focuses on whether or not it is constitutional for the federal government to mandate that all U.S. residents acquire health insurance. As I write this newsletter, speculation is swirling on the outcome of the debate. It is likely the Supreme Court will not provide a ruling on the case until later this year, most likely in June.

As we continue budget discussions at the State House, we will continue to work hard on following through on our commitments to reduce taxes and pass a commonsense budget. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your thoughts or concerns anytime at or 515-281-4618.

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