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August 7th, 2010

Fixing Culver’s Budget ‘Violations’

By Paul McKinley

It’s no secret that Iowa Republicans have consistently issued warnings about the reckless and irresponsible agenda carried out by Governor Culver and the Culver Democrats in the Legislature during the last few years.

Record spending, generational debt, billion dollar deficits, irresponsible budgeting, higher property taxes, massive fee and fine increases and the list could go on and on.

Now, the non-partisan Iowa Taxpayers Association (ITA) recently released their long-awaited report on the fiscal health of Iowa. Their assessment echoed the concerns continually voiced by Republicans.

ITA noted that the budget signed by Governor Culver violates three key principles for sound budgeting:

1. Funding ongoing expenses from revenue sources that are non-sustainable, one-time or time-limited sources.


2. Diverting funds that are statutorily authorized for other purposes.


3. Shifting program funding for education to the counties by underfunding property tax credits and school aid.

“The legislature’s budget actions this year will negatively affect taxpayers,” wrote ITA in their analysis. They continued by noting, “Concerns still remain regarding the legislature’s refusal to abide by its own spending limitation, the use of one-time money for ongoing expenses, and the shift of the tax burden to property taxpayers.”

Shortly after, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier wrote an editorial on July 23 titled, “Lose spin on budget plan” where they took the Democratic controlled Legislature and Governor Culver to task for their four years of fiscal “violations” and their constant use of political spin to try to lead Iowans to believe they have been responsible managers of taxpayer dollars.

They wrote: “Ed Wallace, president of the Iowa Taxpayers Association, said the Democrat-controlled Legislature and Gov. Chet Culver violated three key principles of sound budgeting.

One of those “violations” was that the legislative action that “drastically” shifted costs to counties and schools by underfunding state commitments to local property tax credits and K-12 education – a move that likely will push tough decisions on to local elected officials resulting in higher property taxes.

It’s the same conclusion we came to in March and April commentaries, despite a statement sent from Culver’s office that read, in part:

‘We worked together to save taxpayer dollars, create jobs and protect our priorities. We’ve kept our promises and, most importantly, we have moved Iowa forward. And, as other states continue to debate how much taxes will increase, we balanced our budget – just as we have done every year since I took office – without raising taxes!’

Yes, that part of the statement actually came with an exclamation mark. Frankly, we could do without the political spin.”

Later in the editorial, the newspaper noted that, “Over a three-year period, $532 million of general fund spending has been shifted to Iowa property taxpayers, including nearly $200 million for the 2011 budget.”

But it is not just the Iowa Taxpayers Association and the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier taking note of the serious problems created by this administration and their liberal allies in the Legislature.

A recent web video produced by the Iowa Farm Bureau does an excellent job highlighting many of the budget and property tax woes that are the responsibility of this governor and the other Culver Democrats in the Legislature.

Next year, The new governor and Legislature will have their hands full as we work together to clean up the mess created during the last four years.

Here are three big ideas we proposed to help begin to turn this state around:

First, Senate Republicans propose and support an amendment to the Iowa Constitution to limit state spending to no more than 99 percent of state revenue.

Secondly, Senate Republicans propose requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote of both houses of the Legislature to authorize new state debt.

Next, we propose a systematic process wherein every program funded by state government will be sunset (de-authorized) by a date certain unless the governor and Legislature take action to reinstate it.

Beyond real budget reform and putting an end to Governor Culver’s property tax increases, we must get serious about private sector job creation. The best and only real long-term solution is to streamline government and substantially grow our economy and increase job creation.

Responsible budgeting, lower property taxes and more private sector jobs for Iowans. That is the Senate Republican vision for a more prosperous future worthy of embracing.

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