An amazing thing happened in Iowa last week.
Considering so many countries around the world are embroiled in conflict as a result of political disagreements over power, it is truly awe-inspiring that we, as Americans, are able to witness a peaceful transfer of power.
Such was the case with the inauguration of Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.
As this new administration assumes the reins of power, so too do they assume the responsibility to make good on the wishes of the people who elected them.
Throughout the campaign, Governor Branstad along with Senate and House Republicans campaigned throughout the state on the same core themes and with the same more hopeful and optimistic vision in mind.
We said that making Iowa once again open for business and private sector job creation is a huge priority. We campaigned on reducing the size and scope of state government and made it clear that it is time to provide real tax relief to the taxpayers of this state.
Promises were made during the campaign, and this week, the first step was taken toward fulfilling those assurances.
After an extensive public hearing and a marathon debate, the Iowa House of Representatives passed the very first bill of the session known appropriately as the “Taxpayers First Act.” The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) estimates it will save the taxpayers upwards of $500 million dollars over three years while also setting aside $327 million dollars for tax relief.
This legislation is badly needed because Iowa continues to face a nearly $700 million dollar deficit in the coming year. Unfortunately, without corrective action, this problem will only continue to further balloon out of control in the years ahead due to the automatic spending increases put in place by Governor Culver and legislative Democrats in recent years.
While the final version of the legislation is expected to change before it is signed by Governor Branstad, Senate Republicans are excited to begin our work on the bill and build upon the solid foundation laid out by our colleagues in the House of Representatives.
Governor Branstad made it clear during the campaign that he wants to reduce the size of government by 15 percent. While it will take a lot more than just this legislation to accomplish that that goal, this is a good first step toward achieving that ambitious – but necessary – goal.
The “Taxpayers First Act” includes a wide-ranging collection of cost savings ideas. For example, it eliminates funding for pork barrel earmarks such as heated sidewalks, eliminates millions of dollars set aside for rail infrastructure and depots that will not service any trains and combines and eliminates departments in state government.
The bill requires state employees to begin shouldering a small percentage of their own health care costs, ends sabbaticals at regent universities, halts further land purchases by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, ends all state benefits to illegal aliens, freezes out of state travel and puts a moratorium on vehicle purchases by the state among many others.
These are literally the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing the overall cost of government.
Senate Republicans fundamentally believe government needs systemic reform in order to avoid the job killing structural deficits that have crippled the economies of many other states and countries.
We must live within our means and set a good example for those future Iowans who will inherit the consequences of the very decisions that we are making today.
We believe it is time to chart a new course that is more responsible and sustainable for the generations of Iowans yet to come. We must not squander this opportunity to make government smaller, more efficient, more accountable and more transparent.
Iowans sent a strong message in November and it is time to give the taxpayers a much deserved victory by finally put them first for a change.
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