Thank you Mr. President.
Friends & colleagues:
From day one, Senate Republicans made it crystal clear that we believe this session should have been about three major and very important priorities: long-term sustainable private sector job creation, spending and budgetary reform and property tax relief.
Did we take this opportunity to focus on the important priorities Iowans care about? Did we listen carefully to our constituents? Did we do all we could to put our state back on the right track?
Mr. President and ladies and gentleman of the Senate, I expect the people of Iowa will take a look at our work these last 79 days and will come to the same conclusion: this was a session of missed opportunities.
As we leave today, 112,500 Iowans are out of work, the highest unemployment level in 23 years. There are many others underemployed and still many more who have stopped looking for work.
When we should have been focusing on making it easier for private sector jobs to be created and removing the barriers to private sector job creation, this Legislature continues policies that allow government to pick winners and losers.
When I-Jobs was created last session, Governor Culver promised it would create 30,000 jobs. In the year since, Iowa has actually lost over 30,000 jobs. More over promising and under delivering. Yet, instead of changing course of our path – we only amplified the problem.
This session was a missed opportunity to create a climate with reasonable levels of regulation and taxation that encourages private investment in our workforce.
On jobs, we could have and should have done better.
When the final detailed analysis of the new budget is complete, this Legislature has authorized the second most amount of money in state history.
Let me repeat that. This year’s spending is the second most in state history.
Iowans have grown exceedingly upset with the overspending of the last three years. We missed a golden opportunity to pass a sustainable and responsible budget that truly reflects the priorities of Iowans.
Instead, we continued the past practice of using one-time dollars for ongoing expenses, raised many fees and fines and pushed even more of the spending onto the backs of local property taxpayers. This governor and this Legislature opted to balance the budget on the backs of hardworking Iowans.
Built-in spending increases for fiscal year 2012 now exceeds $1 billion dollars and our new budget uses over $700 in one-time funds to be used for ongoing expenses. Iowa cannot afford for this to continue year after year.
On spending and budgetary reform, we could have and should have done better.
Iowa has some of the highest property taxes in the nation and this session was a missed opportunity to do something about that. Higher property taxes are just another barrier to job creation at a time when we can least afford it.
By breaking the promise made to our school districts, property taxes are set increase by over $180 million combined over this and next budget year. Keep in mind, those tax increases are in addition to the second most spending in state history. There is still way too much spending.
On property tax relief, we could have and should have done better.
We are also leaving today by again failing to give the citizens of Iowa a vote on the basic definition of marriage. Iowans have overwhelmingly asked for a chance to vote. Their desires have been arrogantly ignored. Like the issue of jobs, property tax relief and spending reform, this was a missed opportunity to act on the wishes of Iowans.
Before I conclude, I want to thank my fellow members of the Senate Republican Caucus for their hard work. I want extend my sincerest best wishes to Senators Wieck, Warnstadt and Stewart as they retire. I want to thank all of our caucus staff members, the staff of the LSA and Secretary of the Senate’s office and our pages and door keepers for their excellent work. It takes a lot of dedicated people to keep us all on track.
Though this may have been the session of missed opportunities, let there be no mistake: there is ample reason to be optimistic about the outlook of this great state.
When we do emerge from this economic malaise, we must be prepared to harness the possibility that exists and make it reality.
It will require us to take bold action and make a 180 degrees turn from our current direction.
We must fully understand that government does not create jobs and it cannot generate wealth. Instead we must unleash the originality and imagination of the private sector to build the new Iowa economy of the future.
This state is dotted with manufacturers and small businesses who have served as the lifeblood and the bedrock of our communities. We must embrace the understanding that the new Iowa economy will be about the things that we can touch, feel, need and use. Never should we allow our valuable agricultural commodities to leave this state to have value added elsewhere. We could be on the verge of a new economic explosion if we lead with the right vision, take the right approach and move away from the notion that government is the answer to growing Iowa’s economy.
Not one of us should be satisfied with the news that two-thirds of our counties lost population and 222 of our manufacturing plants closed their doors 2009. We should not accept being 49th in U.S. News & World Report or 41st according to the Small Business Survival Index in business climate.
If we do not change direction, create jobs and grow our communities, I fear we will only continue the hollowing out our state.
Iowa should be the destination place for anyone to open a business or chase their dreams. We have safe, welcoming communities, a wonderful education heritage and a dedicated and devoted workforce. We have a state that offers ample potential – 99 counties worth of potential.
Much of that potential exists because of our people.
My optimism and confidence about Iowa’s future further stems from the quality, superiority and uniqueness of our citizens.
This is a exceptional state filled with extraordinary people who are dedicated to its constant renewal.
They are blessed with common sense, are hardworking, frugal and hopeful about the future. They care about their communities, their schools and the neighbors around them. Our people are smart, they love this state and they want what is best for their families. This sense of independence, community and self sufficiency is what makes this state so astonishingly special.
If we fail to change course, those very people who make this state second to none, will find a home elsewhere. They have the skills, the work ethic and the common sense that are in high demand. They will raise their families elsewhere. They will find jobs elsewhere or start their businesses elsewhere. Other places will gain at Iowa’s expense.
We must make Iowa a hub of opportunity that attracts the brightest minds from around the world to become Iowans and be part of a tradition and way of life unlike and unsurpassed by any other.
As we leave today and go home to our districts and constituents, let us work everyday toward a more promising and prosperous tomorrow for Iowa. The future for this state could not be brighter and I could not be more excited to be part of the rebirth, revitalization and rejuvenation of the state that I so dearly love.
It’s time for a renewal of the principles that have made this state second to none.
Mr. President, as I finish today, I want to wish you all good health and safe journeys. Always remember that wherever you may go and whatever you may do: may you always be proud to be an Iowan.
Sen. Paul McKinley
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