Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Facts about Governor Culver's Efficiency Measures

Nearly half of the options identified by Governor Culver were revenue "enhancements" not savings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Culver Fails to Understand Iowa’s Budget Again

Governor Culver today claimed that he balanced the states budget without using any of the one time bailout money received from the federal government. This statement is completely and totally false as illustrated by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency below. Either Governor Culver does not know or he is intentionally misleading the people of Iowa, either way it is unacceptable.

Last year over $616 million in one time federal bailout money was used by Governor Culver to balance Iowa’s budget.

State School Aid – HF 820 provided $40.0 million for FY 2009 and $202.5 million for FY 2010 to be used to fulfill funding for a portion of State school aid.

Instructional Support State Aid – HF 820 provided $13.1 million in lieu of State aid for the Instructional Support Program in FY 2010. SF 478 (FY 2010 Standing Appropriation Bill) eliminated State funding for the Program for FY 2010.

Regents Universities – HF 820 provided an FY 2010 appropriation of $80.3 million in ARRA Education Stabilization funds to the Department of Management for distribution to the Regents universities. Senate File 470 (FY 2010 Education Appropriations Bill) made total reductions of $80.3 million compared to estimated net FY 2009 to the Regents budget units under the control of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Community Colleges – HF 820 provided an FY 2010 appropriation of $23.1 million in ARRA education stabilization funds and $2.5 million in ARRA government stabilization funds to the Department of Management for distribution to the community colleges. Senate File 470 made total reductions of $22.2 million compared to estimated net FY 2009 for general aid to community colleges.

Medicaid – HF 811 provided $110.0 million for FY 2009 and $144.9 million for FY 2010 to be used to supplement the Medicaid Program.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Liberty Agenda: Putting People First

Iowa Republicans are united in support of returning to the notion that it is Iowans that run government not the other way around. Since 2006, the final year in which Republicans controlled at least one chamber of the legislature, Iowa’s government has become bloated and unresponsive. The focus has become on what is best for the bureaucracy and maintaining the status quo, rather than what is best for Iowa’s families.

As Iowans have seen numerous times over the past several years, government is erecting barricades in front of them instead removing roadblocks to their success. Government has become too large too fast and it is time to make sure government is accountable to Iowa’s families.

Here is what Republicans will do if Iowa voters give us the opportunity:

Allow Iowans the Right to Vote on Marriage

While Iowans differ on the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court all Iowans can agree that the people’s voice has been silenced. There is currently a disagreement between the branches of government. A vote of the people will solve this disagreement. This single act by an individual has been held as the final arbiter in this state and this country for over two centuries. Yet this fundamental democratic act is being thwarted by Democrats who control the Legislature.

Republicans propose that the citizens of Iowa be allowed the opportunity to determine the definition of marriage in Iowa. This is a judgment that should be left in the hands of the citizens, not unelected judges or an unresponsive legislature. Iowans deserve a voice.

A Return to the Fundamentals of Government

As Iowa’s government has expanded, the role of government has changed drastically from one that focuses limited resources on priorities to one that intrudes into trivial matters at the expense of safety.

Since 1998, the final year in which Republicans were in control of state government, the bureaucracy paid for by the taxpayer has increased by over 4,149 employees. This increase has failed to provide additional investments into the men and women that protect us as we travel across this state. In fact since 1998 Iowa has gone from 355 state troopers to only 288 troopers protecting Iowans. This reduction of 67 troopers occurred while the rest of the bureaucracy grew and state spending ballooned to the highest point ever recorded.

Iowa’s government has become unbalanced and out of touch with what Iowa families need and how they want their tax dollars to be spent. Over the past three years alone the bureaucracy has grown to include:
  • 7 new employees in the Governor’s office
  • 2 new gardeners for the Governor’s mansion
  • 20 new employees to collect more taxes
  • 4 new employees to create a data warehouse that is not used
  • Nearly 1,000 vacant but funded positions
Republicans propose to return to the 1998 level of troopers within the next 5 years. While it took a decade for this reduction to occur, Republicans will be aggressive in identifying areas of savings that could be utilized to increase the number of troopers protecting Iowans.

The Iowa Good Neighbor Act

Synonymous with being an Iowan, is being a good neighbor. A neighbor offering to watch your child when the school bus comes in the morning or a grandparent spending time with their grandchildren are examples. These are gestures that can make a huge difference to a family looking to balance the demands of work and parenting. Republicans believe that government cannot be allowed to get in the way of Iowans who rely on family and neighbors.

This fall in Michigan a mother was singled out and nearly fined by Michigan’s version of the Department of Human Services for simply allowing the children waiting in her driveway for the school bus to instead wait inside her house if it was raining or cold. The state decided she was a daycare and attempted to fine her for being unregistered.

This brought to mind Iowa Democrat’s attempts in 2007 to force grandparents to register as daycare providers if they were watching their own grandchildren on a regular basis. Iowans, whether they are neighbors or grandparents, should not be targeted by the Department of Human Services for simply offering a helping hand. This is why Republicans will offer the Iowa Good Neighbor Act to protect Iowans from the intrusive hand of big government. If Iowans want to lend a helping hand by watching a child, they should not be subjected to nanny-state meddling from government.

The Iowa Good Neighbor Act will put into Code specific protections for family members and neighbors who are simply being good Iowans. They will not be defined as a daycare or a daycare provider unless they are specifically offering that service.

The law will put strength behind families and neighbors, not behind the intrusiveness of government inspections. Paternalistic, nanny-state policies are on the rise at the national level and Republicans want to make sure they don’t spread to Iowa.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Making health care accessible, affordable, and portable

We are offering a set of bold, state-based initiatives to make health care more accessible, affordable, and portable.

Health care reform solutions need not come from Washington, DC. In fact, the best reforms are often those developed closest to the people. Iowans do not need to wait for national politicians to act. Instead, they can join with us in pursuit of a set of common sense Iowa Health Care Initiatives and solve Iowa problems with Iowa solutions.


Patients Right to Know Act

As with any product or service, the more information consumers can access to compare the costs and quality of that product or service, the lower the cost and the higher the quality of the products and services they ultimately consume.

Consumers have been slow to embrace market practices to the delivery of health services and, as a result, costs may remain high and quality is often unknown.

We believe the information age provides a tremendous opportunity to dramatically improve access to tools that compare cost and quality in the delivery of health care services on-line. We will propose legislation to establish a statewide information hub that brings together both cost and outcome quality data in a searchable format for online consumers.

Cost and quality transparency will empower consumers to make better health care decisions in a way that maximizes quality while minimizing cost.

Low-Cost Catastrophic Health Plans for those Under 30

Iowans age 18-30 are known as the “Invincibles” as they often believe, given their relative youth and good health, health insurance is a product they do not need. As a result, when they do have to seek medical treatment it is often for a serious condition and very expensive.

In fact, there are 106,000 Iowans in this age group who do not have health insurance and account for roughly half of all the uninsured in the entire state. We will propose legislation that will encourage the development of low cost catastrophic insurance products that will provide base care for younger Iowans and limit the amount of uncompensated care that results when uninsured young Iowans need medical treatment.


Medical Malpractice Reform

No serious attempt at reducing rising health care and insurance costs can move forward without an honest attempt to address the issue of medical malpractice and tort reform.

We have continually championed the need to pass legislation that raises the burden of proof on medical malpractice claims and places reasonable limits on payment for damages.

Expand Health Insurance Tax Deductibility to Individuals and Small Business

Current law allows large employers the opportunity to deduct health care costs “above the line” – meaning a straight dollar for dollar reduction in their taxable income equal to the employer share of health insurance costs and provides a tremendous incentive to provide health insurance to their employees.

Thus, it should be no surprise an independent study shows 94% of employers who have 50 or more employees provide health insurance, whereas 36% of employers who have 10 or fewer employees offer health benefits.

With a significant portion of our population now working for small businesses or for themselves, we believe such above the line deductions for health insurance costs should be extended to all businesses and individuals, be they subchapter S corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships or sole proprietors.

Some estimates suggest an above the line deduction for health insurance costs may provide a 30% savings on such costs and provide a significant incentive to offer health insurance benefits to their employees. It’s simple: if it’s good enough for Wall Street, it should be good enough for Main Street.

Prevention Credits: Putting a Premium on Wellness

Prevention programs that encourage long-term commitment to wellness practices are proven to reduce demand for expensive health services and contain future growth in health care spending. However, our current system chooses to focus on imposing penalties on those who practice less healthy lifestyles (smoking, poor food choices, lack of regular exercise) through higher insurance rates rather than rewarding good health practices with lower rates.

These “prevention credits” will allow an average Iowa family to save upwards of 15% on their health insurance premium or $1,635 on an average family policy. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services there is a return on investment of up to $4.91 for every dollar spent on wellness. This shift in policy will save Iowa families real money while reducing the long term cost of health care in the state.

We propose legislation to require insurers to offer “prevention credits” to individuals and businesses that can be used to reduce health insurance rates for those individuals and businesses that demonstrate, through measurable periodic screening practices, a commitment to wellness and prevention.

This “carrot instead of the stick” approach to prevention and wellness should encourage more Iowans and their employers to actively pursue the promised savings through participation in health and wellness practices that reduce health costs in the long term.


No Pre-Existing Exclusions when Changing Plans with the same Insurance Provider

Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of those seeking continuation of health care coverage than the words “pre-existing conditions”. We propose legislation that prohibits the denial of coverage or the imposition of coverage riders due to pre-existing conditions when an insured Iowan moves from one plan to another plan offered by the same insurance company.

The simple act of moving from Plan A to Plan B (for whatever reason) within the same insurance company should not provide an opportunity to base coverage exclusions as if the employee were accessing coverage with that company for the first time. If the company assumed the risk 20 years ago, it should continue to assume the risk without further exclusions.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Who Knew What Mystery

Culver said he found out about the initial findings Sept. 15, while traveling in eastern Iowa with Tramontina.
“Culver pledges to work with film companies to sort out tax credits”
- Thomas Beaumont Des Moines Register 9/21/09

When information was first brought to my attention last week about Iowa’s film tax credit program, I was troubled.
“An outraged Culver: Iowans will not be taken for suckers”
- Jason Clayworth Des Moines Register 9/22/09

Tramontina submitted a request for proposals Aug. 10 to find an accounting firm to review operations and expenditures of the Iowa Film Office, which is part of economic development department.

He hired the Clifton Gunderson firm of West Des Moines on Aug. 19.
“Film tax errors seen as early as July”
- Lee Rood Des Moines Register 9/23/09

On Tuesday, Governor Chet Culver in Cedar Rapids said at least three times he learned of the tax credit fiasco either "last Tuesday" or "last week". When I asked him to clarify later on during his news conference, he said he had heard about possible problems before then and that's why he said he directed his legal counsel to push for the audit/review/investigation (whatever the proper term would be here) that now-former Iowa Dept of Economic Director Mike Tramontina discussed in a memo last Wednesday.
“Iowa Lawmaker Says Legislators Knew of Film Issues Early Summer”
- Dave Price “Price of Politics” 9/24/09

SEPT. 15: Gov. Chet Culver first hears of problems with the film tax credit, he says. He asks Tramontina for a summary by the end of the next day.
“Miller: Official's assertion on film credits 'mistaken'”
- Lee Rood Des Moines Register 9/25/09

Phil Roeder, spokesman for Culver, said Tramontina raised concerns about the purchase of the automobiles in August, but nobody brought up the depth of the program’s problems until September.
“Lawmaker said he had concerns about film tax credit program months ago”
- Charlotte Eby Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier 10/6/09

"It is critical that the Department of Economic Development immediately prevent additional spending for this program," Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, wrote to Mike Tramontina, the department's director, on Aug. 6. Dotzler send copies of his letter to the governor's office, state auditor and attorney general.
“Records show Culver's office was notified about film office trouble in August”
- Lee Rood Des Moines Register 11/7/2009

The question the Governor now needs to answer is what did he know and when did he know it? Governor Culver clearly stated that he did not learn of the problems at the Iowa Film Office until September 15th from former IDED Director Mike Tramontina. Yet both his spokesperson and the Governor himself stated that they knew of the irregularities in August. In fact the Governor went on to claim that he pushed for the audit put out for an RFP by Tramontina on the 10th of August. So Governor what did you know and when did you know it?

Restoring the Fiscal Balance: Iowa Family Budget Initiatives

We have real solutions to help solve Iowa’s budget crisis and protect the very family budgets that will be at risk if bold action is not taken quickly.

Constitutional Limit on State Spending
We will propose and support an amendment to the Iowa Constitution to limit state spending to no more than 99% of state revenue. The current budget limitation law doesn’t work and, just last year, the legislature authorized nearly 70 loopholes in the current law to allow their outrageous spending increases.

Only an amendment to the Iowa Constitution is immune from legislative loopholes. Limiting spending to 99% of revenue ensures a balanced budget and the annual deposit of money into a rainy day fund. In the meantime, we pledge to pass NO budgets that exceed the 99% limit.

Iowa families must live within their means--Iowa state government should be no different.

Supermajority Vote to Approve New State Debt
This year the Governor signed and a majority of the legislature passed legislation that puts Iowa taxpayers on the hook for a $1.7 billion debt. The average Iowa family’s share of that debt is more than $2,000.

This debt was passed with support form only one party and was done despite statewide polling that showed 70% of Iowans opposed this additional debt. Iowans need greater protection from runaway state debt and these decisions should require more than a simple majority vote—especially when the repayment of the debt may extend for more than two decades and impact taxpayers too young to vote or not even yet born.

We propose requiring a 2/3 supermajority vote of both houses of the Legislature to authorize new state borrowing. Never again should one party have the sole authority to create these long-term debt burdens.

At the local level a 60% vote of the people is required to adopt new debt to ensure there is widespread community support for the projects to be funded. At the state level a 2/3 supermajority vote of the Legislature will help guarantee the same kind of broad support for similar state efforts.

We support pay-as-you-go budgets as the best method for funding state programs. However, if borrowing is occasionally necessary to meet critical needs, we want to ensure the support for that borrowing extends beyond the short term political objectives of any one party and meets the needs of a broad spectrum of Iowans. A 2/3 supermajority vote helps accomplish that goal.

Sunset Authorization of Every State Program
During these difficult economic times, every Iowa family has been forced to gather around their kitchen table and examine every aspect of their personal spending. They ask difficult questions and set new spending priorities to ensure their essential needs are met. Unfortunately, this same discussion rarely occurs within state government.

We propose a systematic process wherein EVERY program funded by state government will be sunset (de-authorized) by a date certain unless the Governor and Legislature reauthorize that program. This will force a thorough top-to-bottom review of every existing program funded by state government to determine whether the program is effectively and efficiently meeting the needs for which it was created, or if the need even continues to exist.

Those programs that are no longer relevant or functioning at a high level will be eliminated, reorganized, or the resources diverted to other priorities--just the way Iowa families eliminate spending that no longer meets their personal needs.

Incremental budgeting practices have led to a bloated and expensive state government that is both unsustainable and a drain on Iowa taxpayers. We will streamline state spending and state programs in a way that protects taxpayers from excessive state spending and ensures better delivery of state services to those in need.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A History of Fiscal Mismanagement

In Their Own
Words …………….

… a deepening national recession dealt Iowa a serious financial blow that Culver said has left him with no choice but to make "significant cuts in government spending."
“Budget plan dismays some”
- Jennifer Jacobs and Jason Clayworth Des Moines Register 1/29/09

The new revenue estimates mean the cuts must go deeper. "This is the worst I've ever seen. This is the worst in my 27 years in the Legislature," Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said Friday during taping of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press."
“More cuts in state jobs, services seen”
- Jason Clayworth Des Moines Register 3/21/09

"If you look at how deep this recession was," Culver said, "I'm encouraged to see some of the trends showing improvement."
“Culver's advisers guardedly upbeat about economic turnaround”
- Jennifer Jacobs Des Moines Register 8/11/09

"In spite of the economic challenges brought on by the world-wide recession, and a projected shortfall for the fiscal year 2011 budget ….” Culver said in a statement.
“Culver dips $45 million from emergency reserves to balance budget”
- Jason Clayworth Des Moines Register 9/26/09

And Their Actions Led to ????????

Iowa legislators, intensely worried early this year about a looming recession and the economic toll of natural disasters, ended the 2009 session by approving the largest budget in the state's history - $6.3 billion.
“Federal stimulus plugs holes, but problems loom for future”
- Jason Clayworth Des Moines Register 4/27/09

That caps off a five-year spending uptick that, in total, increased by 25 percent from $5.02 billion in 2006.
“Federal stimulus plugs holes, but problems loom for future”
- Jason Clayworth Des Moines Register 4/27/09

The state's revenue would have to grow by almost 10 percent in the 2011 fiscal year for the state to avoid future gaps, the Legislative Services Agency estimated about a month ago.
“Federal stimulus plugs holes, but problems loom for future”
- Jason Clayworth Des Moines Register 4/27/09

That means the upcoming budget will be almost $6.3 billion, the largest in the state's history, according to the Legislative Services Agency.
“News Analysis: Session recaps often stretch facts”
- Jason Clayworth Des Moines Register 5/10/09

Iowa families cannot afford Governor Culver and Legislative Democrats Record of Fiscal Mismanagement!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lights. Camera. Action - but not too much action.

“If you build it, He will come.” The Iowa Legislature, in a bi-partisan fashion in 2007 and in 2009, passed film tax incentives to surpass what other states were offering to lure Hollywood into Iowa. Well, the film industry has arrived in Iowa - and it is big business for the state - bringing in film crews, movie stars and the best of Iowa jobs and opportunities. But wait… every good Hollywood movie, there is a plot twist ahead.

Dozens of film advocates and Iowans are now worried that a law change passed by Iowa Democrats capping the tax credits in the closing days of the 2009 session will effectively kill the tax breaks and this new Iowa industry.

Iowa Democrats are proud of their achievements and twittering away on how their insight brought economic development to Iowa. Well, that is nothing more than “Hollywood hype.” Congrats, to the promotions department. But, all the airbrushing and press releases can’t hide the fact that the Democrat’s compulsive spending habits have led to the dismantling of this field of dreams. So, they built it, they came, but the Democrat’s cancelled the game.

All the movie magic in the world can't cover this one up. Democrats are, yet again, trying to have it both ways. They need the economic dollars to balance out their flawed budget but don't want to give too many breaks/incentives. This is one tale that won't end well as Iowa's Hollywood dreams are quickly fading to black.

Click here to watch a video on an awesome opportunity Iowa has with the film industry, but thanks to the Democrats' tax caps, this could be the last pirate ship that sets sail here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wasteful Spending to Find Wasteful Spending

The Culver administration continues down the path of fiscal irresponsibility as it was revealed today that they are definitely dumping a firm from Minnesota that they paid $6.35 million to help find ways to cut government spending in Iowa. They're opting to pay a new firm roughly $300,000 to do the same thing. What a bargain! I'm sure that is what Culver and his advisors are thinking. Too bad the state has already spent four years and millions paying the Minnesota firm to find all these ineffeciencies. So what happened to all the suggestions they made and why can't the state simply use their recommendations? The contract was initiated by the Vilsack administration and Culver thinks he can now do better. Obviously, they also didn't like the suggestions. Hopefully, this new firm will offer some suggestions that are liked by someone in the Governor's office so spending this wasteful spending to find more wasteful spending is caught and nipped in the bud. Wishful thinking, we know.....

Republicans have been making cost-saving, budget-cutting suggestions to the Democrats for months, but it's fallen on deaf ears. The House Republicans even established a web site gathering ideas from Iowans on how to cut costs. Those suggestions were free. Free is good.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Debt and Jobs

The governor announced yesterday that the state would be receiving $100 million to repair roads and bridges. Iowa is getting this money thanks to the bonds that the state is selling. Remember: We've got a triple 'A' rating so lets sell 'em! This isn't free-and-clear money. It's debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay back and I'm sure they won't be too happy about it once the are old enough to understand why their taxes are so high.

This money will be put towards the state's I-JOBS projects aimed at putting Iowans to work, but today, some people are questioning if that program will really help the state. One economist went so far as suggesting a better economic stimuls would be to lower taxes for businesses. We really like that idea and have some more like it but Democrats don't seem to want to listen. Guess they're enjoying spending your tax dollars and incurring debt too much to think about anything else.

There is still no clear answer as to how many jobs will be created from the I-JOBS program and whether those jobs will be quality jobs or temporary, minimum wage jobs. We're just hoping that those pesky pot holes will get filled before the snow falls.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Guest Column by Senator Randy Feenstra

Democrats $56 Million Tax Hike is Politics as Usual

The Democrats eliminated major tax deductions and exemptions for Iowa flood and tornado victims in the 2009 legislative session. They also did away with the teachers tax deduction, college tuition assistance tax deduction, and the business depreciation tax deduction. These deductions put over $56 million back into the State General Fund.

The elimination of these deductions were never communicated to Iowa citizens or their accountants. The Democrats eliminated these deductions that have been available for years. The Democrats made the tax increases retroactive to the 2008 tax filings that were due April 15th. Iowans had no idea this tax increase was going to occur when they filed their 2008 return. Now the Department of Revenue has thousands of wrong tax returns and they are demanding payback for this tax money.

Since this tax hike was done under a cloak of secrecy due to political posturing under the claim of “we never raised taxes,” the Democrats find themselves in quandary.

To fix the problem, all Iowans who took these deductions must file an amended tax return or, hope they’re not audited which could result in a 5% tax penalty plus interest. The Iowa Department of Revenue has up to three years to identify these deduction errors and interest accrues until the money is paid. This becomes an expensive violation for something taxpayers did in good faith.

After Iowa taxpayers caught this political scheme, Governor Culver stated on Wednesday July 8th, that he would look at “any and all options” to address this snafu. The Vice Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Sen. Matt McCoy, noted the issue got knotted up with other tax proposals and stalled during the 2009 session.

Lets be crystal clear, this was done with no regard to Iowa taxpayers. I spoke on the floor of the Senate three times demanding that these deductions be passed for the flood victims, teachers, and businesses. I offered amendments to make sure these deductions were restored but got voted down by the Democrats. Every Democrat Senator knew the ramifications of not communicating this tax increase but they decided to play the political game of “We don’t think Iowa citizens are smart enough to catch this tax increase.”

It’s very disappointing when the Democrats call for government transparency but do things that contradict this very thought. Frankly, it seams the Democrats no longer care about Iowans; rather, for them it’s about winning elections at all costs. This is truly a failure in good government.
Senator Feenstra resides in Hull and sits on the Ways and Means, Education, Rebuild Iowa, and Appropriations Committees. He is also ranking member of the State Government Committee.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Having it Both Ways

No surprise here, Governor Culver is asking the Iowa Department of Revenue to hold off on collecting tax refunds that were issued to flood victims. This comes after the realization that these victim's were taxed on the refunds thanks to Legislative Democrats and the Governor choosing not to couple the Iowa tax code with the federal tax code.

During the legislative session, Democrats had ample opportunity to couple the codes but they chose not to. Now, as the governor is publicly ramping up his re-election campaign, he wants to backtrack, safe face and not punish these flood victims. Too little too late if you ask us. With a $160 million revenue shortfall in the Iowa budget, Democrats need the taxes. We don't see this problem going away anytime soon.

Here's the TV story explaining the problem.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When is a pay freeze not a pay freeze?

Only in state government can a freeze on salaries mean a 4.5% increase in pay. In February, of this year, the Governor agreed to give a $120 million pay increase to state employees. But wait, the headlines were screaming that a pay freeze was going into effect for the upcoming fiscal year.

While private employers and employees in Iowa are struggling to keep their doors open the Governor and legislative Democrats continue to spend and spend and spend.

Following the announcement the Governor’s team and his big labor buddies were crowing that this was a contract both sides could be proud of. It was also stated that this new contract reflected the current economic realities facing the nation. Well that $120 million dollar pay increase would go a long way to solving the nearly $1 billion budget gap the Governor and legislative Democrats have created by their reckless spending.

Well it turns out that in state government a freeze means a pay increase.

(The dirty details are below)

Union or Classification - Pay Increase
AFSCME - Central and Community Based Corrections (CBCs) - $39,789,422
Iowa United Professionals (IUP) - Social Services and Science - $8,877,590
State Police Officer's Council (SPOC) - $2,702,246
Judicial Public, Professional, and Maintenance Employees (PPME) - $229,660
Judicial AFSCME - $1,811,551
Judicial Exempt - $2,402,719
Non-Contract - $13,820,381
Board of Regents - $51,167,428

Total = $120,800,997

Friday, June 12, 2009

Here is the rest of the story

Since the end of session there has been a lot of fluffy political rhetoric coming from the other side of the aisle. Words like reorganization, budgeting responsibly and accountability. Well as the late great Paul Harvey would say ………… And here is the rest of the story.

Over the past three years the Governor and his legislative allies have spent and spent and spent without any thoughts on what tomorrow was going to bring. Well tomorrow has come and there was no plan in place to deal with the problems that the state is now facing. In fact the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, the bean counters for the legislature, has estimated that Iowa is facing nearly a $1 billion deficit for next year.

Is this being accountable to the taxpayer or budgeting responsibly?

If you look at the last time Republicans were in control of the budget spending was held below the rate of inflation. Over the past three years spending has ballooned out of control and well past the rate of inflation. If the Democrats would have maintained spending levels at typical historical levels there would be no talk of a budget crisis.

Spending at the rate of inflation; now that would have been responsible budgeting.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Contradictions Galore

There is a bake sale taking place at the Capitol today and a dessert auction with all proceeds going to the Iowa Food Bank. A worthy cause and decadent sweets and treats abound. There are so many treats, that if you think of the one thing your grandma made for you as a kid, it is probably being sold here today. The contradiction part is that all this baked goodness is on behalf/part of Lt. Governor Patty Judge's challenge: Your Heart is in Your Hands. Judge is challenging Iowans to live healthier lives by exorcising more, eating well and kicking bad habits. She says in an e-mail to all state employees, "as a former nurse -- I know that our health begins with each of us." So why is she promoting calloric overload in the form of Oreo Layer Cake?

This is from the Lt. Gov's challenge web site
The Lieutenant Governors' Challenge is a 12-week reward based program. Participants may choose to work toward heart health through fitness choices, health choices, or both.

Great, we should all try to live healthy lives and if you set out on a public challenge like this, you should stick to it, not help Iowans deviate from their wellness plan by promoting unhealthy sweets. We all love a good cookie, but is this event really appropriate for the promotion of health and well-being? We say, NO.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Clear Message Sent

Click here to read about how Iowa is hiring a Texas public releations firm to promote the state and bring in jobs. The article speaks for itself.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Flexing the Line-Item Veto Muscle

It is unfortunate that the Governor sided with bureaucrats and business as usual instead of the taxpayers and transparency this week when he used his line item veto authority on the budget this year. He struck cost saving measures that would have provided at least some transparency. While the Governor struck cost saving measures he did sign into law the largest budget in Iowa's history that leaves the taxpayer staring at a $900 million hole for next year, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Service Agency. This is reality and unfortunately the Governor and his Democratic allies at the Capitol this year stuck their collective heads in the sand like an ostrich hoping good times will come again. This is not a show of leadership skills but simply more political rhetoric and grandstanding from a group of politicians that have been warned for three years that their explosive spending was going to drive this state into the red yet they failed to listen.

There is a spending problem in this state and the Governor and his Democratic allies need a lesson in frugality as the taxpayer cannot afford more of the same old tired political games. Reform is needed and Republicans are ready and willing to lead that charge for the taxpayer to help protect their money from those that want to spend it on pork barrel projects and over $120 million in salary increases for state employees. Lets hope that someday common sense will win out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spend it While You Got it

Yesterday, State Auditor David Vaudt released his report on the growing revenue and spending problem the state is facing. Iowa will receive federal stimulus money that will, for one time only, helpt to alleviate the bleeding. But if Iowa continues at the current rate, in 2011, the budget will be 61% less than the previous year. That's huge!

Auditor Vaudt gave a good example: for every $1.00 brought into Iowa, the state spent $1.14. Doesn't seem like a lot, but boy does it add up. The bonding numbers are worse. For every $1.00 borrowed, Iowa will end up spending $2.18 to pay it back. How is this fiscal responsibility?

Here's the clincher - if spending would have been kept in line with inflation, Iowa would have had a 2% surplus this year! People need to speak up. Iowans will unfortunately feel the ramifications of this in their higher taxes and raised fees next year.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Swine Flu

The new, deadly virus has hit Iowa and hit it hard. Not only are there reported cases of the H1N1 virus throughout the state, today, China stated they would no longer accept Iowa pork exports. That is devastating news.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey, released this statement: “Iowa pork, and all pork for that matter, is safe and China and the other countries that are banning pork imports are not acting based on science. It is unfortunate that these unjustified actions are being felt most dramatically by the farmers who raise pork. The industry has already been facing very difficult economics for the last several months, and this just adds to the difficulties experienced by Iowa’s pork producers.”

Why are we not hearing more state officials speak out on this? This has a huge affect on Iowa's economy and we can't do enough to correct misconceptions about the virus and Iowa pork.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Fall of the Gavel

It is 5:42 a.m. on Sunday morning at the State Capitol and the end is here. The final bill of the session is on the Senate floor, the budget is balanced, Iowa has bonded and borrowed so much money that it is insane. The standings bill (pork barrel spending bill) passed and everyone is tired and cranky. Let's do it again next year!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Down Time

There is a lot of down time today. Most everyone in the Senate has been at the Capitol for roughly 11 hours and seen only 2 minutes of actual bill work take place. The bills that will hopefully be dispensed with very soon are the Health and Human Services budget bill, a health care bill coming back from the House and a bill regarding flood insurance.

Earlier this week Democrats passed a bill appropriating money to 13 state agencies. Amendments were tacked onto the bill that gave the OK for the state to purchase brand new vehicles – even though perfectly good newer vehicles are sitting, gathering dust in parking lots. These new vehicles will have all sorts of upgrades thanks to this amendment. Some of those upgrades include leather seats, satellite radio, GPS, running boards, truck toppers and new floor mats. Pretty nice considering the state is so cash strapped lately. It’s nice to see that tax dollars are being put to good use.............

On a positive note, the new Adam Walsh bill just passed in the Senate tonight. The bill is tougher than the old sex offender law and provides for a 2000 plus foot rule. This was a truly bipartisan bill that will help protect Iowa children. The bill is now on to the House.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Long Haul Part 2

It is safe to say that everyone at the Capitol is getting a little stir crazy. Legislators would be the first to admit that. The weather is nice, the steady stream of bills has become a trickle and after being cooped up in the Capitol with the same people all winter, tempers flare. That is still no excuse to not take care of the important business of Iowa.

Democrats don't seem to care as they have dug their heels into the ground and closed the lines of communication. Today Democrats in the House and Senate admitted that they are not communicating with the Governor on the most important issue in Iowa - the budget. Until that happens, everyone else is left wondering why egos can't be put in check to get to work. Pouting like high schoolers is sooooo last year..........

Monday, April 20, 2009

In it for the Long Haul

And that long haul could last longer than originally anticipated. It will all depend on how the Democrats decide to work together on the whole bonding thing. Will it be the Governor's $750 million I-JOBS version or the Senate's $125 million version? It's all up in the air right now and Republicans are just waiting for the dust to settle.

Click here for more details.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Summary of This Week

This is the weekly Republican press conference and it is a good summary of what's been going on at the Capitol this week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Business of the People

Iowans for Tax Relief once again rallied the troops today and had supporters of federal deductibility show up at the Capitol. No movement on the issue on the Senate side today so we're wondering if it will even be brought up. It doesn't look like the votes are there to pass it.

A bill that did pass today grants tax credits for movie stars and movie makers who make films or TV shows in Iowa. It's a great economic incentive to bring that type of business to the state, but not long ago, the Senate failed to pass tax credits for teachers who buy classroom supplies for their students. Something about that doesn't seem quite right.

The Senate also voted on a Governor appointed nominee (Sharon Elderkin) to the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission. The nominee didn't get enough votes to pass. Just so you know, the nominee is a registered Republican. Republicans voted against her due to her lack of knowledge on important commission matters. This is a truly important commission in the state and not being able to understand things like particulate matter and how run-off occurs is a deal breaker.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Let the Countdown Begin

Word around the Capitol is that this is the last week of the 2009 Legislative session. Realistically, it won't happen this week. There are just too many bills to get through. Today debate is taking place on drainage districts, fee increases for nursing homes and creating new community programs in Iowa that have a 'green' affect. The Senate is waiting to get bills from the House, including any bills that are bounce backs having first passed the Senate, then gone to the House are are back in the Senate. The Governor's bonding bill hasn't been seen either. So much for the Democrat's April 2nd deadline.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spend Now, Pay Later

As we’re in the last days of the 2009 legislative session, Democrats in the Iowa Senate continued their tax and spend practices yesterday by approving another bonding plan and voting against relieving Iowans’ tax burden.

The first bill that passed yesterday allows the University of Iowa to bond for $100 million in an effort to rebuild art museum facilities that were damaged by last summer’s floods. The debt incurred for this bonding plan would more than double at a total of $216.9 million over it’s lifespan, ending in 2040.

Democrats also voted against an amendment that would lessen the tax burden many Iowans face by allowing coupling to be an option in filing state taxes. Iowa tax code is updated yearly based upon the federal tax code. Allowing Iowans to couple their taxes lessens their tax burden.

These out of control spending practices will burden our children and grandchildren and creates a ripple effect of problems for our future.

Most recently, news on the federal deductibility issue is that Democrats have come together to work out a new plan, but don’t be fooled by the spin on this issue. Eliminating federal deductibility is still a tax on a tax for most Iowans. We're expecting debate on the issue next week.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Nothing is Ever Dead at the Capitol

A common saying around the Capitol is that nothing is ever dead here. SO very true as the elimination of federal deductibility seems to be rearing it's ugly head this week. It looks like Democrats have agreed on a tax plan. That means Iowa taxes are set for a $190 million increase in 2 years.

It is not to late call your State Rep and State Senator Let them know what you think about the issue.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Release on Marriage Amendment From Today

Senator Mike Gronstal Obstructs Vote of the
People of Iowa on Marriage Amendment

Sen. McKinley: “We have had the Legislature and the governor decide in favor of traditional marriage and we have now had seven judges in black robes decide the opposite way and I believe the final arbiters of this important decision should be the people of Iowa”

DES MOINES, IA – Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) today formally asked Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) on the floor of the Iowa Senate why he is obstructing a vote of the people of Iowa on an amendment to the Iowa Constitution that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

When Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act overwhelmingly passed the Iowa Senate in 1998, Senator Gronstal voted in support of traditional marriage. Today, he is the only person in the Iowa Senate standing in the way of allowing three million people a chance to have their vote.

“We have had the Legislature and the governor decide in favor of traditional marriage and we have now had seven judges in black robes come down in another way and I believe the final arbiters of this important issue should be the people of Iowa,” said McKinley. “Iowa is a sovereign state and I will accept the will of the people but we will not know the will of the people until a vote of the people is taken and it is wrong for Sen. Gronstal to obstruct that vote.”

McKinley said he believes that if Senate Majority Leader Gronstal were to allow a vote in the Iowa Senate, there would be 26 votes to pass it and therefore start the process of amending Iowa’s Constitution.

You may contact Senator Gronstal at or by phone at 515-281-4610.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Recent Events

Today, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower courts ruling recognizing gay marriage in the state.

Here is Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley's statement regarding the Iowa Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage:

“The decision made by the Iowa Supreme Court today to allow gay marriage in Iowa is disappointing on many levels. I believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman and I am confident the majority of Iowans want traditional marriage to be legally recognized in this state. Though the court has made their decision, I believe every Iowan should have a voice on this matter and that is why the Iowa Legislature should immediately act to pass a Constitutional Amendment that protects traditional marriage, keeps it as a sacred bond only between one man and one woman and gives every Iowan a chance to have their say through a vote of the people.”

On another note.............

Here is Senator Randy Feenstra (Hull) expressing his disgust over the coupling bill and the Senate's spending practices:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Taxpayers Kicked Out of Capitol

Last night's House of Representatives public hearing on possibly eliminating federal deductibility was a great show in solidarity for the Iowa taxpayer. We're estimating that roughly 600 people showed up and apparently things got animated. We're not talking slanderous outbursts, but the occasional applause and some 'boos' were heard after speakers stated their views. Well, it was enough for the House Speaker to get upset, flex his political power muscle and kick everyone out of the House Gallery. After state troopers forced the audience to leave the hearing went on and all scheduled speakers were able to talk.

But c'mon, House Democrats can't handle a little applause from an animated crowd? I'm sure they hear much worse at their political forums - at least that's what we guess from the pile of bad bills they bring up over there. Last night's public hearing wasn't legislative procedure. It was public and open - there's no specific decorum for that so the fact that everyone was unnecessarily kicked out of the House Gallery really stings. I'm sure taxpayers will get their revenge on election day.

Here's what Senator David Johnson had to say about it this morning:

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Crowd Takes Over Capitol

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night, a HUGE crowd showed up for the House public hearing on the possible elimination of federal deductibility. It was great. Everyone got these great red shirts that read, "No tax on a tax." Seeing the sea of red in the House gallery was great. Check out the video we shot below. We're hoping all these united voices will make an impact on the Democrats who want to eliminate federal deductibiliy.

Eliminating Federal Deductibility Rolling Through Capitol

This issue is really heating up the Capitol today. Here is audio from Senator Brad Zaun, Senator Randy Feenstra and Senator David Johnson all commenting on the Senate florr how the elimination of federal deductibility will result in a tax on a tax and hurt small businesses in Iowa.

Don't forget: PUBLIC HEARING: Tonight
The Iowa House is holding a public hearing on the bill to repeal federal deductibility in Iowa.
Who, when and where: Anyone wanting to speak out against eliminating federal deductibility meet at 6:30pm at the State Capitol cafeteria. The public hearing on federal deductibility will be from 7:30pm-9:30pm in the House.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Get Back to the Real Issues

This weekend, the big news was about a certain Senator using a racial slur. It was the big buzz Monday at the Capitol. And all we'll say on the matter is if this was a Republican they would've been burned at the stake. Unfortunatley, this detracted from the real issues facing Iowans: raising taxes and the state budget.

We can already tell you that the state budget will not be seen for at least a few more days. Democrats have posted their number but there is still too much to iron out.

Raising taxes will take center stage tomorrow as the House holds public hearings at 7:30 p.m. on federal deductibility and it's possible elimination. The bill is starting in the House. If nothing else sticks with you today remember this: elemination of federal deductibility results in a tax on a tax.

Hopefully there will be a great turnout and strong opposition to the issue will send a clear message to the House.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Seen Around the Capitol This Week

Senators Reynolds, Behn, Noble go over legislation.

Senator Bartz talks to Lake Mills High students

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Taxing a Tax

Democrats have made it official: They are looking to eliminate federal deductibility. They rolled out what they are calling a middle class tax cut, but lets call a spade a spade. Eliminating federal deductibility is a tax on a tax.

If you don't have kids or own a house, you're really screwed. Some Iowans use federal deductibility to lessen their tax burden and Iowa is one of a few states that still does that.

The Democrats are going to say that this is a revenue neutral thing to do, but what happens next year when they don't have the federal stimulus money to plug the gaping deficit hole and they need to up the ante and increase the tax burden even more? We're just sayin' - it's a pretty real possibility.

After the Democrats pass their “tax cut” - which really totals about 17 cents - Iowa families could purchase a gallon of milk and loaf of bread after only 28 days of saving.

$3.31 for a gallon of milk
$1.40 for a loaf of bread
$.17 per day tax cut by the Democrats……..priceless

* U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Say Goodbye to Federal Deductibility

Senate Democratic Leadership is making a bold move by recently announcing that they will attempt to eliminate federal deductibility. The message signals that Iowans should brace themselves for a tax increase. Based on the most recent information, eliminating federal deductibility would be a tax increase of $594 million. An Iowa household earning $45,000 would receive an average of a 5% increase in their taxes or $222.

Iowa is one of a handful of states that allows a 100% deduction for federal income tax payments on the state individual tax return. It protects Iowans from paying a state income tax on money used to pay their federal income tax. It is the largest way some Iowans may lessen their tax burden.

Democrats have tried to disguise the potential change by claiming it is tax simplification and it makes the system fairer. It looks like the Democrats’ definition of simplification is different from the taxpayer’s definition since this elimination actually raises taxes.

Proponents of the elimination of federal deductibility claim the deduction allows “wealthy” Iowans to avoid paying their “fair share” of Iowa personal income taxes. This data shows that the top income earners in the state are already paying a significant share of the total Iowa personal income tax burden. In fact, the top 10% of Iowa taxpayers pay about 40% of all Iowa personal income taxes. The next 20% pay about 30% of the burden, the next 20% pay less than 20%, and the bottom 50% of all Iowa income taxpayers pay less than 10% of the total Iowa personal income taxes.

Proponents have also argued that if Democrats eliminated federal deductibility and then lowered the tax rates it would make the state more attractive to persons looking to relocate themselves and along with their business in Iowa. This argument is a bit of a stretch. It’s hard to believe that an someone looking to relocate is only going to base their decision on the tax rates on their tax return. There are so many other factors that influence business including effective tax rates, business environment, accessibility to transportation, and quality of life - to name a few.

We’re still waiting for legislation to be introduced. And with Democrats looking for a way to pay for more of their state spending, the elimination of federal deductibility could be their ticket to get back in the black. When talk turns to eliminating federal deductibility and promises to reduce tax rates, Iowans should understand it is simply a shell game and they should get ready to pay more.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Guest Column by Senate Republican Whip Steve Kettering (Lake View)

When your act is not quite ready for Broadway, you see how it plays in Peoria. This week the Governor took his Bonding Play to stages around the state.

The lights dim, the curtains part. The Governor rushes on stage. The set is the Capitol rotunda. The Governor is dressed in Sunday’s best. The temperature is warm. He is sweating as he excitedly runs across stage, his right hand held high above his head, a credit card in hand. “I’ve got a higher limit, we can spend more he says to those assembled. We don’t have to accept that Senate baby bond bill of only $175 million. It is not enough. We can do more. The state’s credit rating is triple A. We can borrow $750 million. It won’t affect our credit rating. Other states have borrowed far more. We can spend it now. Gaming taxes will pay for this for 20 years to come. You see how easy it is? It is the gamblers who will pay,” he says. The Governor’s stay on stage is brief. There is more shopping to do. The credit card has not been maxed out. The Governor’s exiting line: “Today is the time to spend.” With that he moves off stage.

The reviews were not pleasant. The critics not kind. The obvious – this bonding play is not destined for Broadway. It may be rescripted. Total scenes may be removed. Legislative democrats immediately rejected borrowing for transportation infrastructure, and rolled out their own $700 million borrowing plan. Iowans will see many versions of spending plans before adjournment. What is disappointingly missing is any attempt to prioritize spending within revenues received. It is apparent this administration is determined to live far beyond it’s means.

As I write this, the Senate is concluding debate on Senate File 389. This bill removes individual responsibility and replaces it with government run health care. The private insurance companies of this state will be required to subsidize a state bureaucratic corporation. It will require private citizens to disclose on income tax returns the status of their children’s health coverage. The bill mandates the Department of Revenue and Department of Human Services to create penalties for parents who do not sign their children up for government issued health insurance. This bill passed the Senate 30 – 18 with bipartisan opposition and will now go to the House.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sitting Idly By....

There's been a lot of talk lately about budget cuts and how to get the state back in the black for FY 2009. Well, we have one suggestion: stop buying new state vehicles. The ones we have are clearly are not used.

We caught rows of idle state vehicles in a parking ramp with layers of dust on them. It's obvious they haven't been driven in quite a while.

So while the Democrats complain and complain that it is the national economy they ignore what they can do to take care of the budget mess they created. Republicans offered an amendment that would have suspended the purchasing of new vehicles for the remainder of FY 09 and all of FY 10. Instead of accepting this common sense amendment that would have saved over $10 million they rejected it. Instead of using the vehicle in this photo and many more just like it the Democrats would rather use your tax dollars to prop up Ford and General Motors.

Finally, we'll say it again: Democrats don't have a deficit problem, they have a spending problem and this parking ramp is proof.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Numbers are Out

A big, fat OUCH. The Revenue Estimating Conference met today to project the budget for the remained of 2009 and into 2010. It isn't pretty. The new estimate for 2009 is a decrease of $158 million in total net receipts as compared to actual FY 2008. For 2010: The new estimate is a decrease of $164.4 million in total net receipts as compared to estimated FY 2009.

Contrary to what you might be hearing - Iowa does not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Added state programs, full time employees to go with those programs, money to repair historic pipe organs, and satellite radio in state vehicles adds up. Where will it stop?

Hello! What have we been saying the last two years? Spending at an unsustainable level has put Iowa in the red. Be prepared, my friends, bad things are on the horizon.

Here is a great suggestion for the spending practices going on in the state:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Healthcare Dictatorship

This afternoon a bill requiring Iowans to have health insurance passed with bipartisan opposition in the Iowa Senate.

The bill requires Iowans, whose income is at or below the 300% level of the Federal Poverty Level - or just over $60,000 - to enroll their children in a state-run health insurance plan. If Iowans do not enroll in a form of health insurance, residents will face penalties created by the Department of Human Services and Department of Revenue. We don't yet know what those penalties will be but it is likely to be monetary. So what the Democrats proposed is penalizing the poorest of our population? Many would say these people already have enough hardships without the insurance police coming after them.

The bill creates more bureaucracy by having an insurance board that is legally untouchable. They can make decisions on these insurance cases in this new program but appealing those decisions will be virtually impossible.

Anytime an uninsured child goes into a hospital for care, they are never turned away. Iowa has Hawk-I provided for kids for free or at a reduced rate. These programs have worked perfectly in the past. In fact, if you turn on your car radio on any given day, you'll hear a Hawk-I commercial. The state has been promoting the heck out of this program.

This bill is another step toward socialized medicine that will end up raising insurance rate with private insurers. All of Iowa will feel the pain of this bill.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Name That Bill!

Last week was what is called Funnel Week. Although the atmosphere does at times resemble a circus, it does not have anything to do with funnel cakes. Like a diet, it is self-imposed. Funnel Week is a deadline for pushing bills out of committees onto the legislative calendar. Typically, if a bill doesn’t make it out of committee, it is considered dead. Below is a description of bills that we’ve been talking about on this blog that amazingly made it past Funnel Week. See if you can name that bill. Good luck! The answers are at the bottom of the page.

1. Allowing union workers to live long and prosper without being burdened by management:

2. Finding the most favorable doctor to write you a note to get you out of PE class:

3. Ensuring no worker is left behind in the pay line:

4. Making sure Miss Daisy does not pollute the air and taxing you more:

5. Eventually turning over the entire road to people on banana seats and bells:

6. Making sure everyone and their dog is safe if it rains:

7. The only piece of Iowa legislation to be discussed on the Tonight Show:

8. Making sure Grandma never sends you more than $5 so your "big brother" can get more money:

9. Copy of the U.S. Constitution: $5. Slapping U.S. history in the face: Priceless. For everything else, there’s bonding.

1. Collective Bargaining
2. Dr. Shopping
3. Prevailing Wage
4. Monitoring Car Emissions

5. Bicyclists Bill of Rights
6. Flood Insurance
7. DOA or the name change of the Dept. of Elder Affairs
8. Granny Tax
9. Popular Vote

Monday, March 16, 2009

5000 Jobs? Really?

Today, Senator Jerry Behn of Boone gave his thoughts on the Senate floor about the claim that Democrats will get 5000 jobs out of their latest $175,000,000 bonding bill.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Governor Releases Details of Bonding Plan

Yesterday, Governor Culver announced his plans for a new program he's calling I-jobs. He wants the state to bond for $750 million and says that will create 30,000 jobs in Iowa through the projects it goes toward. Just doing the simple math, that $750 million would be eaten up by paying the salaries of those 30,000 jobs. It breaks down to $25,000 per person salary. That's before anything even goes toward the actual projects.
The other night, the Senate debated a bonding bill. It passed along party lines and was for $175 million for 20 years. Here's a poignant quote from that debate spoken by the Senate Majority Leader to all Senate Republicans:

“As our unemployment rate climbs in the state of Iowa, your ‘no’ vote tonight is a ‘no’ to 5,000 jobs in this state. I can’t believe Republicans are ‘no’ to jobs, ‘no’ to veterans and ‘no’ to being tough on crime. Unbelievable." - Sen. Michael Gronstal D-Council Bluffs.
Since we keep our calculator handy, we broke down those 5000 jobs from this bonding bill to equal salaries of $35,000 - again, not even touching the projects themselves. Seeing 5000 jobs come to Iowa would be great, but is it realistic? Maybe, maybe not. (And since when is anybody pro-crime?)
And should the state bond simply because it can? Bond now and let our kids and grandkids pay for it later? Passing the buck will get us nowhere.

Seen around the Capitol this week:

Senator Johnson talks to UNI research students

Senator Tim Kapucian talks to regional 4-H clubs.

Panora Middle School students and Senator Nancy Boettger

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quote of the Day

"This (raising student achievement) is not relevant to the issue at hand- we're just talking about the process for paying teachers."- Becky Schmitz (D- Fairfield), Chair of the Senate Education Committee in regards to a question posed by Senator Paul McKinley (R- Chariton) about how SF 314, legislation dealing with teacher pay, would help raise student achievement in Iowa.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Retirees and Your Community

Yesterday, Senate File 291 passed and is on it’s way to the House. The bill calls for the Department of Elder Affairs to create a "certified retirement community" program that would encourage retirees to make their home in Iowa. The program is also supposed to aid in rural economic development. There are no costs associated with the bill unless a community pays for the certification.

Yesterday this was our quote of the day and it is worth repeating: “If a community can attract a retired person, that is the equivalent of attracting three-and-a-half manufacturing jobs to that community.” Senator Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge. Since when do retired citizens equate to any manufacturing jobs? Retirees don’t work – that’s what retirement is!

The buzz lately has been creating an environment conducive to job creation in any Iowa community. Sounds great, everyone wants to work right about now and wants thriving businesses in their communities. With the Iowa House talking about debating Dr. Shopping, Prevailing Wage and repealing Right to Work, maybe we should focus on those bills and making sure they die since they’ll all squelch that job creation environment.

We’ve been hearing some strong opinions from our loyal cyber fans about this bill and how ridiculous it is. To be fair, the bill passed unanimously, but it is a Democrat-sponsored bill that, in the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate, is viewed as economic development. This is a real stretch and nowhere in the bill does it say anything about getting people to work by creating an atmosphere that would encourage job growth. But hey, if your city hall needs another piece of paper to put on the wall they can get it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Things Are Starting to Happen

A lot of different things are buzzing around Iowa right now. It started Friday with Governor Culver announcing that he would veto any gas tax that came to his desk and it's continuing as Matt Strawn, Iowa GOP Chairman, travels the state talking about all the bad bills circulating in the statehouse right now. And major props to Strawn because the DM Register wrote a positive article about how Iowa Republicans are moving up in the world thanks to the use of technology.

Around the Capitol today:

Senator Johnson with UNI students during Research Day.

And quote of the day: “If a community can attract a retired person, that is the equivalent of attracting three-and-a-half manufacturing jobs to that community.” Senator Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, after a Senate bill passed unanimously to make communities "certified retirement communities" if they apply for that designation.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Guest Column by Senate Republican Whip Steve Kettering (Lake View)

Confessions of a Shopaholic is a play that normally you would find on stage or screen at a downtown Des Moines venue. This week the troupe opened at the Capitol. The legislative version is - How much of your money do we need to spend? Initial calculations total at least $10.6 billion. The main players include a federal stimulus package of $2.1 billion, disaster relief of $1.5 billion, the Governor’s bonding proposal of $700 million, and state tax revenues of $6.1 billion. However, on stage first is a $175 million remake of a 2009 bond offering that attracted no buyers.

Our story begins there. You may recall that the 2008 Legislative Session ended with spending up nearly one billion dollars over a two year period. While the shopping was nearly complete, some items remained. The problem was lack of cash for the budget, so a tobacco bond was proposed. The state could simply borrow the money; spend now and pay later. But, no bond buyers showed up with cash for the state in exchange for those tobacco bonds.

Now a budget crisis looms. The state has more shopping to do, but where to find the money? Swinging on stage from high above stage left is the State Treasurer recommending an annual appropriation bond instead of a tobacco revenue bond. “You don’t even have to have a source of repayment,” he shouts. Spend now and future legislatures can simply appropriate every year for 20 years - enough to pay back what is spent this year. It is a simple and easy procedure. Pain free! Not to worry, the anticipated bond rating should be no more than one notch below the usual usurer rating. There may not even be a debt service reserve fund required. Spend away. This appropriation bond can be paid from any future source of revenue. Just let the next 20 legislatures worry about the repayment. A great idea. For 2009 we can cruise easy and trouble free; with that the Treasurer exits – stage left.

This annual appropriation bond moved out of the Senate Appropriations Committee this week. It will be debated on the floor in the near future. On the floor this week was also the 2009 appropriation adjustment bill. This formally deals with the changes the Governor has articulated in the past several months. Thus ends Act I.

An important budget date in the near future is March 20th. That is the scheduled date of the next Revenue Estimating Committee meeting. The projections announced at the conclusion of that meeting will have far reaching implications. They could render the Governor’s budget proposal and the recently announced Democrat targets meaningless.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Power Plant Goes Down Before it's Even Built

Today it was announced that Alliant Energy will not move forward with their plans to build a $1.8 billion coal plant in Marshalltown. The Iowa Utilities Board set too much red tape around the facility being built.

Iowa currently receives 76% of it’s power from coal plants and because of that, rates in the state are some of the lowest in the nation. Those in support of the Marshalltown power plant have argued that another coal-fired plant is needed in order to bring more accessible power to the state. A larger power base will be more attractive to businesses as they explore moving to Iowa. And at a time when everyone seems to be talking about bringing jobs to the state, the IUB and with no help from the Governor, this plant plan has died.

We all know that Microsoft has put their plans on coming to Iowa on hold. Businesses like Microsoft really need lots of power to run. What's next? This is a huge blow to the state. And for everyone who is concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, look up the facts about coal. It is cleaner than ever. Emissions would be at a minimum.

It's really too bad that Iowa won't see the 1000 jobs that go with that plant and hopefully rates won't go up for customers.

You can read more details here:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

SRC Unveils Job Creation Initiative

Today, Senate Republicans announced a three-point plan to give Iowa's economy a shot in the arm.

The Grow Iowa Not Government plan wouldn't cost a thing, wouldn't create more beauracracy and at the least would create jobs and get people talking about enhancing the state. It's a no-nonsense plan. Here are the details:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Still Waiting

The budget is one of the most contentious pieces of legislation that must be passed every year. It is the very last bill that has to be agreed upon for the Legislature to gavel out for the year and conclude session. As the majority party, the Democrats set the tone and budget numbers that are debated. Recently they released their first round of numbers for what they’d like the budget to look like. So far, their numbers still look like a hot mess and they only have themselves to thank for it.

We still don’t have the entire picture and most likely won’t for a while. The Revenue Estimating Conference meets on March 20 so target numbers will have to be re-estimated based on what comes out of that meeting.

For now, let’s attempt to break down the info that we do have and that is: over the last two years the Democrats have grown the General Fund by nearly $1 billion. That money has gone to programs and to fund things like the restoration of a pipe organ in Clermont. Growing government breeds dependency so in lean years funding these programs becomes pretty tough. When across-the-board cuts are made it doesn’t really look so deep – but the propped-up programs need to follow through on their promised dollars. (Say hello to higher taxes, Iowa, and good bye to Federal Deductibility) Just think where the state would be if spending had never been raised. We probably wouldn’t even need cuts.

Where’s the fiscal leadership? Waiting……..Waiting………..Waiting…………………

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bills Debated Today

The Senate calendar is starting to get a little full and if the Democrats truly want to be outta here by April 2 the Legislature better get moving. So far, though, nothing too controversial has come up for debate. Since we are now eight weeks into the 2009 Legislative Session we’re predicting some late nights in the very near future. Here’s a run-down of bills the Senate will debate today:
SF 237

SF 207

SF 203

SF 199

SF 176

They all passed.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Around the Capitol This Week

Senator Tim Kapucian with Center Point Urbana High School FCCLA students.

Senator Kim Reynolds visits with Americorps volunteers.

Senate Page Mia Kornelis and Senator Randy Feenstra.

Republican Leader Paul McKinley with Dr. Gary Runyon of Corydon.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bicyclists in Rearview Mirror May be Going Faster Than They Appear

Today one issue took up the majority of the day in the Senate: Bill #117 or the Bicylists Bill. We are all about sharing the road for our recreation-loving bike friends but the bill is a bit much. It offers cyclists extra protection from motor vehicle operators but Senate Republicans argued today that the protection offered puts drivers at a disadvantage and in some cases doesn't go far enough.

Senate Republicans offered nine amendments to truly improve the bills but all failed. Among the amendments:
-Requiring cyclists to attach flags to their bikes so drivers and farm machinery operators can see them.
-Exempting municipalities from being held liable from cycling accidents. (anyone remember what happened with RAGBRAI and Crawford County?)
-Changing the cycling hand signals so they are easier to decipher.

The overall bill gives cyclists five feet surrounding them at all times (even if they ride three wide) so passing them on county roads might become pretty trecherous. And watch out if you're driving farm equipment and meet one coming over a hill. Motorists must now sound their horn if they think a bike is near and they want to turn a corner. Drivers must also not open their car doors into oncoming traffic if they think cyclists are near "unless it is reasonably safe."

This bill just happened to deter everyone today as the Democrats finally released their budget numbers for the year. This distraction won't last long as those budget numbers will be seen for what they really are: a fiscal fiasco that could have been avoided over the last two years.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Allowable Growth Passes in Senate at 2%

On Tuesday, February 24, the Iowa Senate passed SF 218, most commonly referred to as allowable growth, with 32 Democrats in favor of the bill and 18 Republicans opposed. The bill sets the allowable growth rate for the 2011-2012 school year at 2 percent.

During a budget year when all areas of government are being asked to cut spending, this bill will essentially allow Iowa’s K-12 public school districts to increase their budgets by 2 percent for fiscal year 2011. Under 2 percent “allowable growth,” per-pupil funding will increase by $115 to $5883.

School funding is based on a combination of state aid and property taxes. Two percent allowable growth will provide almost $3.7 billion in total funding for schools. Of that amount, roughly $2.4 billion will come from the state, and $1.3 billion will come from local property taxes. As families are being forced to re-examine their personal budgets and tighten their belts, this bill will increase property taxes by nearly $60 million compared to the amount established for the 2010-2011 school year. While there is never a good time to increase taxes, it is abundantly clear that now is an especially bad time.

Additionally, it is still unclear how the state will pay for a 4 percent increase in funding for schools next year, let alone another increase two years from now. The Governor has even recommended that funding be cut from next year’s K-12 budget, thereby placing the burden of his party’s excessive spending habits on local school districts and taxpayers to fill the inevitable gap. It is irresponsible to allocate additional dollars for fiscal year 2011 when we have not yet fixed the current fiscal year nor begun serious work on next year’s budget shortfall.

It was excessive spending on the part of the majority party that got our state into this financial crisis in the first place. Rather than possibly forcing schools to decide between making deep cuts to their budgets or raising taxes, the responsible approach would be to require schools to maintain a status quo budget for now, as it is always easier to appropriate additional dollars in the future if it is economically viable to do so.

Had the governor and legislative Democrats not spent nearly a billion dollars during the last two years and driven up hundreds of millions of dollars in self-inflicted deficits, it would be more feasible to permit additional allowable growth. Had the governor and legislative Democrats done a better job controlling spending and keeping government within its means, there would be more money available for top priorities like education.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Popular Vote Bill Gets a # (SF 227)

Read the bill's details here:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bill Disenfranchises Iowa Voters

A bill was just pushed out of the Senate State Government Committee that would, if passed, essentially silence millions of Iowa voters’ voices. Senate Study Bill 1128 is more commonly referred to as the Popular Vote Bill and it guarantees the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states. It would turn all of Iowa’s Electoral College votes into popular votes automatically. Iowa's votes would turn into East Coast votes.

The fact that this idea is even being entertained is ridiculous. Iowa has worked hard to be the first in the nation caucuses and retain our independent voting spirit. This bill would throw it all out the window. Candidates would spend less time, money and effort on Iowa making the Iowa Caucuses irrelevant. Why would Iowans even care if the candidates don't stop here?

This is being billed as an effort to save states money and energy in polling and advertising, but this bill will make millions of Iowa votes null and void. It silences millions of Iowa voices and it is amazing that Democrats think this bill gives Iowa a bigger voice.

Iowa has 7 Electoral College votes and has had the first in the nation caucuses since 1972.

Let your voice be heard. Every vote counts. Contact your senator at 515-281-3371 or via e-mail: Sign the petition against this bill at

Friday, February 20, 2009

Around the Capitol This Week

Senator Shawn Hamerlinck (middle) with nursing students from St. Ambrose Univerity.

The ISU Statesmen singing in the rotunda

Senator David Johnson with members of Pheasants Forever and Iowa Conservation Alliance.

Senator Wieck at the Oversight Committee hearing of the treatment of men at the Atalissa plant

And we're throwing this lovely quote in just because we like it and it seems very appropriate at this time.

"I don't think at a time when everybody is stressed is a time to be taking more money out of people's pockets," Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal said. "I think it's unlikely we're going to pursue a gas tax increase. I think we're going to focus on ... the resources we have."

Title: Gronstal rules out gas tax for flood relief
Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA) - Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Top Ten List

Top 10 doctors that will see a dramatic increase in their patient load after the Democrats pass the Doctor Shopping Bill:

10) Doc. Martens
9) Doctor Tom (Davis)
8) Doctor J.
7) Doctor Feelgood
6) Doctor Doolittle
5) Doctor Zhivago
4) Doctor Dre
3) Doctor Pepper
2) Doctor Scholl's
1) Doctor Seuss

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Every Vote Counts…..for Now

Senate Democrats are examining a bill that would make every vote cast in Iowa for Presidential elections null and void. The bill, SSB 1128, hasn’t yet made it out of committee and is known as the Popular Vote Bill. The bill (if it becomes law) would mean that Iowa’s Electoral College votes would immediately turn into and go the way of the popular vote for President. So if Iowa votes for a Democrat for President, it doesn’t matter because if the entire East Coast votes for a Republican, Iowa’s Electoral votes automatically go to the Republican candidate.

Forget having any clout with the Iowa Caucuses. Why bother? Candidates would spend less time, money and energy in Iowa.

Millions of Iowan’s votes wouldn’t count for anything if this bill passes. This is a winner-take-all state of mind that stifles the voice of millions of people. And the fact that Democrats are even entertaining the idea is pretty scary.