Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) today delivered his opening day speech of the second session of the 83rd Iowa General Assembly on the floor of the Iowa Senate. His remarks, as prepared for delivery, are as follows:
“Thank you Mr. President.
Friends and colleagues:
There is an ancient Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” Is there any doubt that we live in interesting times?
As we start this new legislative session in this new decade, we are faced with a great number of challenges. Before the gavel falls for the final time this year, I know this body will be asked to act on many of these challenges. We are all going to be asked to make choices and take votes that we all wish we could avoid.
As we convene today in these interesting times, our state faces the largest deficit its history as a result of this Legislature passing and this governor signing the largest amount of spending in state history just months ago. Never in Iowa’s 164 years have we seen a deficit top $1 billion dollars but that is precisely the fiscal predicament that we must contend with in this shortened session.
Iowa does not have a revenue problem – we have a spending problem. Only three months ago, Governor Culver signed a ten percent across-the-board cut. Given the level of unsustainable spending and because our Constitution thankfully demands a balanced budget, action needed to be taken. Yet, it was all avoidable.
Some may wish to cast blame with Washington or Wall Street but that misses the mark. Had we spent at the rate of inflation since 2004, our state would not have had the $415 million dollar hole that needed to be eliminated by the governor’s across-the-board cut. Instead, we would have had a balanced budget, an $80 million dollar surplus and very few of the difficult fiscal decisions that we now must tackle in the coming weeks. Even after the governor made his across-the-board reduction, we are still left with the second most spending ever.
Republicans offered hundreds of millions in immediate cost savings last year and while most of them were voted down, we will continue to work hard to find savings, eliminate waste and offer innovative solutions that will result in a leaner and more efficient delivery of services to our constituents. Senate Republicans will continue to offer common sense solutions and a fiscally responsible vision for the years ahead.
If this body is truly serious about reorganizing government, Republicans stand ready to offer our solutions and suggestions to fundamentally and systemically reform the way our government operates. We must strive for lasting reforms and reject short-sighted attempts that will only further exacerbate the problem later. Now is not the time to kick the can further down the road.
We must now work together to pass a sustainable and responsible budget that funds the core essential services of government and reflects the priorities of our citizens. We must accomplish this without shifting taxes onto local governments, raising fees or continuing the past practice of using one-time dollars for ongoing expenditures.
While much of our focus may be on the budget, we face another tremendous challenge. We have 113,000 Iowans in the ranks of the unemployed and many other of our fellow citizens are underemployed having endured furloughs, benefit cuts and hour reductions. Our unemployment rate is now at levels not seen since the depths of the Farm Crisis a generation ago.
Senate Republicans believe we must make this session about jobs. We must grow this economy and send a clear message that Iowa is a destination for all those who wish to find success and fulfill their economic dreams. We must never lose focus on the future and remember that while we aim to help the Iowans of today, we are also building a state so that all of our children, grandchildren and the future generations of Iowans can find a job, build a business and raise their families here. Many of us have been given so much and have achieved our dreams as a result of the lives we have lived in this wonderful state. We must work every day this session to make it possible for others to realize their dreams here too.
Last session, Iowa put $1.7 billion dollars on the credit card to create temporary government make-work. Yet, all of that debt, to be paid off over three decades, will not lead to good paying sustainable private sector jobs. It is one thing to pay someone to dig a ditch and fill it back up and it is another thing to make it easier for sustainable private sector jobs to be created in every community in every county. We must move away from the mindset of allowing government to pick winners and losers and strive to help all who seek success.
Jobs can be created during a recession and during tough economic times. I know because I created lots of jobs in southern Iowa during the Farm Crisis. We must unleash the entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity of the private sector. We know small business, the engine of economic growth in this state, is responsible for two out of every three new jobs created. We must not add additional barriers that will make it more difficult for jobs to be created.
Already, we’ve learned that the property taxpayers of this state will likely be forced to shoulder upwards of $270 million in growth stopping increases this year alone. Let’s create a climate with reasonable levels of regulation and taxation that encourages private investment in our workforce. It’s time to set aside the legislation that raises taxes, puts out of balance the labor-management relationship and enacts new over zealous regulations that send jobs across our borders. We should not punish the very people who we need to help grow our state. Senate Republicans intend to focus on jobs and property tax relief and for the future of Iowa, our kids and grandchildren, I pray there is bi-partisan support.
Besides getting our fiscal house in order, working to make it easier for sustainable private sector jobs to be created and helping the property taxpayers, we will certainly be asked work on other important endeavors. Challenges exist in education, health care, energy, agriculture and with our natural resources. We must do better in providing oversight and never stop trying to make our government more open and transparent. We must also challenge ourselves to guarantee ample public safety and ensure that we have roads and infrastructure that are safe, reliable and capable of supporting the Iowa economy of the future.
With a shortened session, we must work efficiently and diligently on behalf of the citizens of this great state – the citizens and taxpayers who elected us and put their trust in us to carry out their wishes. They are asking us to lay the foundation for a brighter and more optimistic future. Senate Republicans are eager and energized to play a significant role in leading Iowa forward.
This is now the second session where I have served as the Republican Leader and as I have traveled extensively throughout this wonderful state in the past few months, I’ve met with Iowans from all corners of the state and from all walks of life. I’ve heard one common message: government is too big, too out-of-touch and it is increasingly out-of-control. In fact, I know there are tea partiers here today and I welcome their scrutiny. Whether Iowans are gathering at tea parties all over the state demanding a greater voice, less spending, a smaller government, more freedom, liberty and opportunity or whether they want us, the members of the General Assembly, to finally give them a vote on the basic definition of marriage: we have a duty to listen to their concerns for they are the reason we are in this chamber today.
We, as elected officials, have been granted an incredible authority to set policy and represent the people of this state. As individuals, we are here to serve as the voice and vote of our constituents in our districts but together we must work for the betterment of all.
Senate Republicans are again ready to get to work for the people of this state. Our agenda is straight forward: if it helps streamline government, keeps government within its means and does not ask for the taxpayer to shoulder even more of the burden through higher taxes, you will see broad Republican support. If the proposals help make it easier for sustainable private sector jobs to be created, you will see broad Republican support. If we are about expanding freedom, liberty and opportunity in this state, Republicans will be on board. But if the proposals and legislation seeks to do otherwise – if they seek to continue to grow government, raise taxes and make it more difficult for jobs to be created – do not be surprised to find us strongly opposed.
I want to conclude by offering one more famous Chinese proverb. It says, quite simply, “May you find what you are looking for.” There are 50 of us in this chamber and together we represent the three million Iowans that call our beautiful state home. Every Iowan is unique and special but we all are looking for similar things: a better life and jobs for our family, good schools and safe communities for our children and a government that lives within its means, promotes liberty and fosters opportunity.
Iowans are blessed with common sense, are hardworking, frugal and optimistic 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 the bedrock and lifeblood of this great state.
Mr. President, let us work together every day to offer a more optimistic, hopeful and prosperous future. Always be proud to be an Iowan and though we live in interesting times, may we all find what we are looking for.
Thank you very much.”
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