House GOP reveals first bill; Democrats react

As reported this morning, budget cutting is priority one for the  Republicans who will hold 60 of the 100 seats in the Iowa House and will control the debate agenda.  House Republicans released more details earlier today.  Read their news release below:

DES MOINES) – Today House Republicans unveiled their plan for budget savings, the Taxpayers First Act. 

“House Republicans campaigned on giving Iowans a seat at the table.  This bill does just that,” said House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner). 

The Taxpayers First Act will create a Taxpayer Relief Fund which will capture any budget surplus and direct it back to the taxpayer.

“For the past four years, more government spending always came first.  However, any surplus is not just more money for the government to spend.  It belongs to the taxpayers and should be returned to the taxpayers first,” said House Appropriations Chair Scott Raecker (R-Urbandale).

In 2009, House Republicans launched a budget savings website where Iowans could give input on savings ideas.  Republicans turned those ideas into over $600 million worth of amendments to help streamline state government.  While those ideas were rejected at the time, Republicans continued meeting with Iowans to craft savings ideas which will be enacted for the Fiscal Year 2011 2012 and 2013 budgets.  Below is a highlight of the bill:

•           Create a Tax Relief Fund to capture any remaining general fund surplus

•           Charge all state employees a minimum $50 monthly fee for health insurance.  Charge legislators and legislative staff a health insurance premium

•           Prohibit new vehicle purchases for general use, mandate Administration and Regulation budget subcommittee to create a new system for outsourcing the fleet and leasing vehicles, eliminate all add-ons

•           Reduce office supplies, service contracts, equipment purchases by 50 percent of unencumbered appropriation

•           Combine all state information technology systems (exempt Homeland Security)

•           Direct the Department of Administrative Services to develop a request for proposal (RFP) to sell or lease the Iowa Communications Network

•           Reduce funding for library acquisitions at Regents universities by 50 percent of unencumbered appropriation

•           Reduce the Department of Natural Resources land acquisition for FY 2011 by 100 percent of unencumbered appropriation

•           Freeze out-of-state travel funded from the general fund (allow a waiver process)

•           End all state benefits to adult illegal immigrants

•           Enforce residency requirements for all human services programs

•           Direct the Education Appropriations budget subcommittee to combine the administrative functions at the Regents universities to find efficiencies

•           Eliminate voluntary preschool, direct the Education committee to create a new voucher program

•           Eliminate Power Fund, after current liabilities are funded

•           Eliminate Office of Energy Independence, Ag & DNR budget sub decides responsibilities

•           Eliminate core curriculum, Education Committee sets new standards as of July 1, 2011

•           Cancel all Regents university sabbaticals for 18 months

•           Eliminate Just Eliminate Lies, Quitline Iowa and other smoking cessation efforts

•           Eliminate the state family planning waiver

•           Eliminate empty shelter care beds, Health and Human Services budget subcommittee recommends new reimbursement

•           Eliminate the Rebuild Iowa Office, shift responsibility to Homeland Security

•           Cut marketing efforts that are funded by the general fund by 50 percent of unencumbered appropriation, Appropriations Committee creates a master marketing contract

•           Eliminate $8.5 million for rail project, return funds to the original source

•           Eliminate the $30 million for sustainable communities and heated sidewalks

•           Cut the Area Education Associations (AEAs) by $10 million, have them use reserves or make cuts to fund the difference

•           Eliminate the Grow Iowa Values Fund beginning July 1, 2011, freeze remaining unencumbered appropriations for FY 2011

•           Eliminate the “Save our small business” fund and revert unencumbered funds

•           Repeal current mental health statute, mandate new system that includes $125 million in dollar-for-dollar property tax relief by July 1, 2013

•           Eliminate the Generation Iowa Commission

•           Withdraw Iowa from the NAFTA superhighway coalition

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates these savings to be roughly $500 million over three years.

“This past November, Iowa voters sent a clear statement that they were tired of business as usual,” said Speaker-elect Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha).  “Voters said they no longer want a heavy-handed government that spends too much and borrows even more.  House Republicans have come up with a plan that puts taxpayers first.”

Republicans reached out to House Democrats and asked for their input on savings ideas.  The bill will be House Study Bill 1 and will be the first bill passed off the floor of the Iowa House.

UPDATE:  Democrats in the House and Senate issued statements in response.

House Democrats: Republican Plan Actually Spends More Than It Saves

“After promising to save $200 – $300 million in the current fiscal year, Republicans have dramatically missed their own goal by several hundred million dollars.  The plan outlined by House Republicans today stunningly spends $23 million more from the state’s general fund than was approved during the 2010 session.  Including savings outside the general fund, the plan only saves a paltry one third of one percent,” said House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy, who cited an analysis from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.  “Their plan also rewards big tobacco companies by ending smoking cessation efforts that help Iowans kick the smoking habit.”

“Unfortunately, the Republican plan puts our kids and small businesses last.  I’m extremely disappointed that the largest cost saving measure suggested by Republicans is to kick four year olds out of preschool next year,” said State Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, who is Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee.  “Republicans also eliminated an effort to help small businesses expand and create new jobs. House Democrats will work with Republicans to make state government more efficient, but we won’t do it at the expense of hard working families and small businesses.”

Republican plan ignores Iowa workers and employers struggling to deal with lingering national recession

Senate Leader welcomes GOP to fiscal debate

Statement by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal:

“It’s disappointing to see that the first bill proposed by the new House Republican majority completely ignores the needs of Iowa families and Main Street businesses that are looking for job-creation leadership in the midst of a lingering national recession. 

“Too many Iowans are still out of work and this proposal turns a deaf ear on them and their needs. In fact, many of the proposed cuts put a bull’s eye on the backs of Iowa’s working families by targeting services for our most vulnerable citizens and reducing our state’s quality of life.

“At the same time, I am glad to see House Republicans express some interest in joining our successful efforts to trim state spending and downsize state government. We are willing to work with Republicans in the Legislature and with the new Governor on budget savings that make sense for Iowa taxpayers.”

Iowa GOP Agenda Abandons Job Creation

Republican’s Continue to Make Reckless Promises They Can’t Keep

DES MOINES – While Governor-elect Branstad has yet to release details on how he will cut 15 percent of the state budget and create 200,000 jobs, House Republicans today released a proposal that cuts vital services for Iowa families along with proven job creation programs.

“At a time when Iowans demand responsible economic policies that create jobs and grow our state, Iowa Republicans have introduced a bill which recklessly eliminates successful programs and endangers job creation efforts,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky.

The House GOP plan puts Iowa jobs at risk by eliminating the Iowa Power Fund, which will create up to 22,000 jobs and the Save our Small Businesses Fund which provides incentives to entrepreneurs in the state. It is also likely to have a negative impact on Iowa’s quality of life – a key to attracting employers – by eliminating preschool, cutting family planning services, and taking $10 million from Area Education Associations.

“After campaigning on job creation, Republicans haven’t followed through,” added Dvorsky. “It’s clear that instead of making calculated and principled cuts to the budget, Republicans have taken a chainsaw to vital programs that attract jobs and benefit Iowans.”

“Democrats will continue to work toward responsible and deliberate reductions to spending that do not endanger job creation or reductions in the quality of life for Iowans.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.