This past week House Republicans unveiled their proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Obviously, as a member of the majority party, I view this budget as a more balanced and sustainable approach than that offered by the Democrat-controlled Senate. For starters, the House budget protects priority services in the areas of education, health and human services, and public safety while at the same time spending less than what the state will take in.
The House budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014 comes in at $6.4139 billion which provides a modest increase in the state’s General Fund spending (3% over last year’s level) and continues the practice implemented two years ago of aligning spending with revenue. While revenue growth is currently ahead of projections, there is a great deal of uncertainty about future revenue due to the on-going drought conditions, slow economic growth, and the federal budget situation.
The House Republican budget makes fully funding state commitments a priority, such as property tax credits and obligations for mental health equalization funding. This budget also includes funding necessary to maintain our commitment to education; including the funding necessary to allow our universities to freeze tuition, $10 million to community colleges, and a two percent increase in supplemental state aid for local schools.
Contrast that with the Senate Democrats’ budget proposal which spends almost $500 million more than the House Republican plan.
The Senate Democrat budget represents nearly an 11 percent increase over last year. If signed into law, state revenues would need to grow at 6.3% to maintain their level of spending. As a point of reference, the annual revenue growth has averaged 3.34% over the past twenty years.
This initial offer by Senate Democrats is neither reasonable nor sustainable as it spends $1.05 for every dollar the state collects. The House Republican proposal spends $0.98 of every dollar collected.
In other news, Friday, March 8 marks a very important date in both the House and Senate chambers as this is the first “funnel” deadline. Essentially, what this means is that in order for legislation (outside of tax and spending bills) to be eligible for House Floor consideration, it must be voted out of the full committee it was assigned to by March 8.
There are a couple bills of personal interest that have passed this first legislative hurdle, as they are issues I care about deeply and campaigned on heavily.
The first one, House File 219, regards strengthening our Eminent Domain laws on behalf of Iowa property owners. Should this bill become law, it would protect private property owners from the egregious precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision. In other words, government would not be allowed to condemn private property for the purpose of recreation or increased tax revenue. As a proud co-sponsor of this bill, I was elated to vote it out of the Judiciary Committee in bi-partisan fashion (19-2) and see it come one step closer to reality.
The other bill I was pleased to see move forward this past week was House Study Bill 23, a bill requiring photo identification when voting or registering to vote. This bill comes from the Secretary of State’s office and has been revised to address concerns and objections raised with a previous voter ID bill brought forth in the last General Assembly. I was more than happy to assist Secretary of State Matt Schultz in moving this bill along. Despite what most opponents of this bill say, at its essence, this bill is designed to improve election integrity in our state. If we are truly concerned about every vote counting in an election, then we must be vigilant in stamping out any potential of voter fraud.
Please feel free to contact me with your issues or concerns as they arise either by phone (515-281-3221), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or in person when visiting the Capitol. I appreciate hearing from you and consider it an honor to be your representative in the Iowa Legislature. Until next time, God bless!
Representative Greg Heartsill (R-Columbia)