Thursday, November 19, 2009

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.

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