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March 7th, 2009

Budget Watch – By House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen

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Written by: The Iowa Republican

rep_paulsen-77Week 8 of the 2009 legislative session is now over and as best I can tell we have one bill of consequence that has been enacted. That being the Rebuild Iowa bill passed in week two. I am still waiting to pass a bill that will grow Iowa’s economy or put one Iowan back to work.

Republicans continue to ask about this and offer proposals, but apparently it was more important this week to spend time changing the Department of Elder Affairs to the Department on Aging and then introduce bills that repeal Iowa’s Right to Work Law and increase the cost of worker’s compensation insurance. I don’t understand the priorities of the Democrat majority.

There are some budget talks beginning to happen. Regrettably, these conversations are going on between Democrats behind closed doors. They talked about bipartisanship on opening day, but have chosen to leave Republicans out of the budget discussions taking place This is unfortunate and ultimately hurts Iowans.

The updates I know about are as follows:

Through January, revenue was running even with the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) estimate of -0.5 percent. However, in February things took a sharp turn for the worse. Revenue came in at -1.5 percent compared to the previous year and a full percentage point below the latest estimate. If revenue at the end of the year is -1.5 percent, it will mean another $60 million reduction.

Compounding the problem is the fact that tax refunds increased dramatically in February and are now $64 million higher than FY 2008. Higher than projected refunds will mean less net revenue for the general fund. It also means the FY 2009 budget will again be out of balance and the FY 2010 budget recommendations by the Governor and budget targets set by the Democrats will be meaningless.

There’s no denying that our state is feeling the crunch of a slumping economy. In order to head off more trouble at the pass, state government needs to cut back even more. We’ve spent time diving into the budgets and need to put that to good use.

We must cut out previously funded pork projects, reduce spending money on things the state doesn’t need right now, and also stop the out of control spending for the future. I am very concerned that even when the federal “stimulus” dollars arrive, the legislature will be setting Iowans up for a significant tax increase within the next two years.

Beside the budget mess, another anti-growth log has been thrown on the fire. This week, House File 555 was filed. This bill is will gut Iowa’s more than 60 year old right-to-work law. As filed, the bill forces both public and private, non-union members to pay union dues as a condition of their employment.

Instead of finding ways to put Iowans back to work, rebuild our economy and protect taxpayers, Democrats are focused on forced unionism. Rest assured House Republicans will object to any attempt to garnish wages of workers and will fight against any attempt to repeal Iowa’s Right-to-Work.

In 2007 the Wall Street Journal stated, “If the Iowa legislature wanted to chase jobs and employers out of the state, they couldn’t come up with a better plan than undermining right to work.”

Lastly, late Thursday we were informed that next Friday the Democrats plan to debate and pass a bill most often referred to as “employee choice of doctor.” This bill refers to injuries that occur at work and while it sounds nice, it is expected to raise employers’ cost of worker’s compensation insurance by at least 15% assuming no change in workplace injuries.

Iowa’s current worker’s compensation is a carefully crafted law that generally speaking is well balanced and serves Iowa’s employees and employers well. We have a system that operates at a relatively low cost (ranked 41st in the country) and yet we have some of the higher employee benefits in the nation (ranked 3rd in the country).

With our strained economy and shaky budget, it is certainly not the time to be even suggesting proposals that make it harder to be an employer in Iowa. It sends a bad message to our current businesses and will only deter other businesses from setting up shop in Iowa. We need employers investing in our workforce not looking for reasons to go elsewhere.

Click to read more information about the legislation HERE

As always, please let myself and other legislators know how you feel about these proposals and any other. Our contact information can be found HERE

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The Iowa Republican

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