From Rep. Linda Upmeyer –The second week of session is in the books and work within policy committees is underway. I am happy to report that this week the House Education Committee passed a bill that would increase funding for our local K-12 schools by $81 million. The bill will now move to the full House floor, which I expect will be debated early next week. House Republicans made a commitment to work quickly to find resolution on school funding this session, so we are doing everything we can to help move the process forward.
One of the primary responsibilities of the Legislature is crafting the state’s budget and ensuring that tax dollars are spent in the most effective way possible. Compared to last year’s budget, the state is projected to see revenue growth of $153 million. While many say that this budget will be tight and difficult, I remain optimistic and see this as a great opportunity to really dig into the budget to find savings and efficiencies, while making sure we fund our priorities and obligations.
House Republicans are committed to budgeting like Iowa families and businesses. That means we won’t spend more than the state collects in revenue, and we won’t use one-time funding sources to pay for ongoing expenses. Some in the Legislature have argued that now is the time to tap the state’s reserve funds in order to get through this time of slow revenue growth. This is a short-sighted approach to the state’s budget. There is no economic emergency, as tax receipts are projected to increase next fiscal year, but with slow growth we will need to be very strategic with the commitments we make. Iowans are expected to send the Legislature an estimated $7.3 billion next fiscal year. That amount is sufficient to meet the needs and priorities of Iowa.
One of the budgets that the Legislature passes each session are the standing appropriations, established either in Iowa Code or the Iowa Constitution. This budget, totaling nearly $3.5 billion, consists of several areas of government including funding for schools, the Legislature, and property tax credits, among other items. Outside of education funding (which is reviewed regularly by the Education committee) this budget has not been thoroughly reviewed for many years.
In order to fund Iowans’ priorities within anticipated revenue, Appropriations Chairman Pat Grassley has tasked a bipartisan group of committee members with combing through the standings budget and questioning state departments about their spending. Led by Rep. Ken Rizer, this subcommittee will be looking to find areas of duplication, programs that may have outlived their usefulness, and programs that aren’t serving their intended need. To show that the Legislature is leading by example, the subcommittee began their work this week by reviewing the Legislative budget.
This subcommittee will continue to meet regularly during session questioning various government departments and agencies. I look forward to seeing the results they are able to come up with.