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Capitol highlights

April 24, 2015
By Rep. Tedd Gassman - Representing Iowa House District 7 , Estherville News

Greetings from

Capitol Hill:

This week the House began to work on the budgeting bills for next year. We were able to pass the transportation budget bill, and now we are starting to look at the budget for higher education and the Administration/Regulation budget. To balance our budget, we plan to cut back the Administration/Regulation budget by $1,995,769. We are also planning to slim down the higher education budget by $1,111,995. The House Republican budget target for Administration/Regulation is $49,800,000 and our target for higher education is $977,578,044. Hopefully we will be discussing these budget targets in committee and on the floor next week.

The issue of school funding continues to be a hot topic here at the statehouse, and I continue to receive correspondence about this issue. I'd like to offer a little history on the budget from the late 2000's to help explain why House Republicans feel so strongly about the principles to produce a balanced and sustainable state budget. These principles include, "we will spend less than the state collects; and, we will not use one-time money to fund ongoing expenditures."

Past history illustrates why these principles are so important. For the four years Democrats controlled both houses of the legislature and four years of the Governor's office, they spent the following percentages of ongoing revenue:

n FY 2008 102.23%

n FY 2009 - 105.52%

n FY 2010 107.85%

n FY 2011 111.82%

During the 2010 session (FY 2011), Democrats authorized nearly $600 million in spending from the Cash Reserve ($267.4 million) and federal stimulus money ($323.9 million).

Those spending practices resulted in financial disaster for the state. As Governor Culver left office back in 2011, he had forced a $500 million property tax increase, borrowed over $800 million that costs double to pay back, and left a $700 million spending gap for the new governor and legislature. Spending more money than the state collects has consequences.

This is why House Republicans are so determined to take a stand and propose what they feel is a fiscally sustainable budget. Spending no more than ongoing revenue is the standard we have based our budgets on during the past four years. The Legislative Services Agency (LSA) estimates that ongoing revenue, based upon the difference between last year's expenditures and this year's revenue estimate, is $180 million. Out of that $180 million, funds will have to be provided for education, $100 million; property tax relief, $132 million; and $206 million for Medicaid. The total of just these three built-in expenditures is $438 million. When the ongoing revenue of $180 million is applied, a difference of $258 million will result.

Below are several bills the House passed this week:

HF 637

This bill is the first budget bill the House has passed this year. It is the transportation operations budget. HF 637 Appropriates a total of $365.2 million to the Department of Transportation. This number includes $49.9 million from the Road Use Tax Fund, $315.3 million from the Primary Road Fund and $2,872 FTE positions. These numbers are for FY 2016. There are no appropriations from the general fund in this budget. HF 637 also includes provisions for FY 2017 by appropriating 50% of the FY 2016 Road Use Tax Fund and Primary Road Fund levels for FY 2017.

HF 646

HF 646 modifies the uses of the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) funds for our public schools to include repairs of transportation equipment used for transporting students if the repair is in excess of $2,500. This bill applies to budget years beginning on or after July 1, 2015. The purpose of this bill is to allow schools the flexibility to use PPEL funds for common sense financial decisions such as repairing a bus instead of being forced to buy a new one.

HF 397

After being passed in the House earlier this session, HF 397 struggled in the Senate until a compromise was reached this week. As you may recall, this bill originally defined "occasional work" in state child labor laws. The Senate attached a strike-after amendment which changes the bill to adjust the permit process for 14 and 15 year olds.

The amendment changes the process so that the issuance of permits will go solely through the labor commissioner's office. Signatures by the parent and the employer are still necessary as well as documentation such as a birth certificate to provide proof of age. In its current form, HF 397 adjusts the permit process for 14 and 15 year olds in a beneficial way, and will make this process easier for students who wish to get a summer job. I am glad to have been able to run this bill on the House floor, and I am glad to see it pass. HF 397 is now on its way to the Governor for his signature.



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