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Legislative Update 05/21/2015

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You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.
Aristotle

Legislative Update

Friends,

This week was a short one in Des Moines.  We are in Des Moines to discuss pertinent bills, vote on bills that are ready to vote on, and get the feeling for how the end of the session might come about.  Wednesday, we passed the last of our budget bills, the Standings Appropriations.  This is the last of our state’s budget bills and is important because it generally provides for limitations on standing appropriations and often has corrections to bills that were passed previously. 

This particular bill was an amendment that went to the Senate and when the Senate receives it, will likely go to Conference Committee where a group will come to some sort of “middle ground” or compromise.  In this amendment to the Senate there were provisions for online learning programs, provisions for controlled substances, Animal Truck Washes, Iowa Education Savings Plans, and Firearms. 

One bill that made it into the amendment is a bill that passed out of the House nearly 3 months ago that I was the floor manager for.  That is the Asset Verification Bill for Medicaid.  If you remember, this bill has the potential to save over 18 million dollars in Medicaid fraud, waste, and abuse the first year if only ½ percent of fraud is found.  This bill passed out of the House with a large majority, over 70 of the 100 Representatives voting for it.  The bill was never brought to a vote in the Senate and no reason was given for that.  Because of that, we have placed it into the Standings Bill as part of. 

It is important to Iowans that we do not spend more than we have and live within our means.  While standing by this principle for the last five legislative sessions, Republicans have found common ground with the Governor and Senate Democrats.  We expect that to continue this year.  Living within our means is something the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa do every day.  Government needs to do the same.
The House Republican budget plan spends 99.9% ($7.168 billion) of on-going revenue ($7.175 billion) ensuring that government does not spend more than it has and lives within its means.  This is a 2.48% (173.8 million) increase over FY 15.  The Senate Democrat plan spends 102.5% (7.341 billion) of on-going revenue.  That is a 4.73% ($347 million) increase over FY 15.

According to the non-partisan LSA, actual state revenue growth is 2.6%, not 6%.  In actual dollars, growth is $180.9 million, not $408.1 million.  According to LSA the $408.1 million figure cited by Democrats represents the growth between estimates not the growth between actual spending and the FY 2016 estimate.

The House Republican General Fund budget plan does not use the ending balance, the Cash Reserve or the Economic Emergency Fund.  According the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency in regards to the ending balance, “It should be noted that these excess funds are considered one-time revenues that can carry-forward from one fiscal year to the next.  The transfer amounts can be unpredictable from one year to the next…  Reliance on these revenues for ongoing operational expenses of government programs can result in budget shortfalls if an economic downturn causes a drop in annual tax revenue.”
Partisan rhetoric from legislative Democrats claim the GOP plan will dramatically affect government services in a negative way.  It is difficult to argue that a nearly $174 million increase will tie the hands of government agencies and prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities.

Iowans are sending $7.175 billion to state government coffers.  That is a tremendous amount of money. Spending more than they are sending to the state sets hardworking taxpayers up for either future budget cuts or a tax increase.  Instead of that, the Legislature should simply live within its means.
The Cash Reserve is used to cash flow the state budget.  Taking money from it jeopardizes timely payments to school districts and local governments.

The Economic Emergency Fund is used for catastrophic problems such as the floods of 2008.
If there are legitimate one-time expenses – such as paying off state debt, or making targeted investments in key infrastructure projects, or improving water quality – then using one-time resources like the ending balance may be appropriate.  House Republicans voted to pay off state debt using ending balance dollars in 2013 and 2014.

Discussions with the Governor’s Office and Senate Democrat’s Leadership continue.  Republicans remain optimistic that an overall budget agreement will be reached that maintains the House Republican Budget principles as has been the case for the last four sessions.

I encourage you all to stay in contact with me.  I can be reached through my website, www.willsforiowa.com, by phone at 712-330-9492, through my Facebook page under username “WillsforIowa” or through my legislative email, john.wills@iowa.legis.gov.  I look forward to continued interaction with you throughout 2015 and better understanding what thoughts and issues are of the most concern to you.
 
Sincerely,

Representative John H. Wills
 


Legislative Priorities 

2015-16 HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET PRINCIPLES

House Republicans are committed to these principles to produce a balanced and sustainable state budget:

  1. We will spend less than the state collects;
  2. We will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs;
  3. We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs; and
  4. We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.
The House Republican position on government spending is reasonable, sustainable and based on simple common-sense budgeting principles.
 


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State Representative, John H. Wills
Governor, Terry Branstad
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