We are nearing the half-way mark of the legislative calendar. Next Friday is the first funnel, or the deadline for bills to be reported out of committees. This is a self-imposed deadline forcing ourselves to keep the process moving so we can finish the session up in a timely way. In a few days floor debate will begin in earnest, and we can probably expect some long days and evenings.
State Budget Targets
The Senate Democrats have released their 2014 budget targets on Wednesday. Their proposal spends $6.89 billion, a whopping 11% increase from 2013. We expect revenue of approximately $6.54 billion, or almost $300 million less than they want to spend. It's disappointing that some have not learned from the same budgeting mistakes the legislature and Gov. Culver made 3 years ago. I will continue to support the budget principles that all Iowans use for their personal finances, meaning that we will not spend more money than we bring in. Another budget consideration that I believe is very important is that the state fully funds the commitments they have made to local governments. In the past the state has failed to keep the promises made to counties and cities.
Meanwhile the House Republicans have proposed a budget that is balanced and sustainable. Their version of the 2014 budget protects priority services in the areas of education, health and human services and public safety. They have set their spending target at $6.41 billion, or 98% of on-going revenue. Obviously there is a huge gap between the two proposals, and it's my expectation that we will end up closer to the House version than the Senate version because fiscal conservatives simply will not go down the road of overspending again.
A Commitment to Government Transparency
Senate Republicans took a step toward greater government accountability this week by filing legislation making the lawmaking process more transparent to Iowans. The first bill requires a statement of Constitutional authority on all legislation filed by the General Assembly, while a complementary bill charges legislators with providing a statement of legislative intent in bills creating or expanding a program. By filing this legislation, we remind all legislators of their duty to serve Iowans as the fiscal watchdog over the state budget and to reign in over-reaching government.