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May 9th, 2012
 

Republican Leaders Offer Remarks on Close of Legislative Session

The 2012 Iowa Legislative session came to a close Wednesday with neither side able to brag about many accomplishments. The Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate was able to block the reforms that Republicans were pushing. Specifically, property tax relief failed. GOP efforts to strip taxpayer funding of abortion was removed from the final budget bill.

Here are Republican leaders’ remarks on the close of the legislative session:

Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha):

I will begin by saying thank you to the members of the Eighty-Fourth General Assembly. Thank you for your commitment and service to the people of Iowa. Special thanks to the Eighteen of you choosing to retire.  You will be missed not only by your friends and colleagues here at the Capitol, but moreover by the Iowans in the districts you’ve served over the years.

I want to specifically recognize the two members retiring from the House Republican Leadership team; Speaker Pro-Tem Jeff Kaufmann and Assistant Leader Steve Lukan. I personally want to thank each of you for your friendship and your service to our caucus. Your leadership will be missed.  To the other members of the leadership team: Erik, Renee, Dave and Matt – I truly appreciate your input and advice. And last but not least, the Majority Leader – Linda Upmeyer. House Republicans appreciate everything you do. Your dedication and insight are invaluable and have not only made our caucus more determined, but made the Iowa House stronger.

I’d also like to recognize Leader McCarthy.  I know I have said this before, but you truly have a difficult job as Minority Leader.  During the past two years you have done a commendable job working in a bipartisan manner when you could and trying to keep your opposition civil when you could not, something Iowans deserve and expect.

Once again, thank you to the leadership staff:  Josie, Angie, Terri, Tony and Matt.  And, in my opinion, the best caucus staff in the building – the House Republican Caucus staff: Jeff, Lew, Lon, Brad, Jason, Kristi, Jill, Amanda, Louis and Dustin. Thank you for your hard work and the timely and reliable information you provide year in and year out.

Chief Clerk Smithson, thank you to you and your staff.  The work you all do right here in front me and behind the scenes helps make this chamber operate efficiently.

A special thanks to LSA for all of your hard work.  Especially the time and effort put in by all these past few weeks.

I also want to recognize and thank the gentleman to my right, the Speaker’s page Tom Biedenfeld.  Tom you have taken good care of me throughout the year.  I appreciate your dedication and have enjoyed our baseball conversations between votes and while the House is at ease.

And finally, a special thank you to Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and their team for their resolve and unwavering leadership during these last two years.

The first day that the Eighty-Fourth General Assembly convened, I outlined to Iowans a set of goals this body would seek to achieve and principals we would follow during the course of conducting legislative business. Since that day, this body has remained focused on the issues important to Iowans and the business the people sent us here to do.

We have worked hard at putting Iowans back to work and reducing the size, scope and cost of state government.

The first action we took to put Iowans back to work was to provide Iowa’s business climate with some much needed certainty and stability.  For too long, Iowa employers were reluctant to invest in their operations, preventing them from hiring and expanding.  They were reluctant because they constantly threatened with job-killing legislation like the repeal of our Right to Work law and Open Scope Bargaining.  House Republicans put those ideas in the rear-view mirror and moved forward.

Employers were reluctant to invest in Iowa’s workforce and economy because Iowa’s budget was unstable.  State government was spending more than it took in and the threat of massive tax increases to correct the problem was real and imminent.

I can report to you today we have removed those fears and Iowa’s economy is rebounding and is headed in the right direction.

When Republicans took the majority in the House, more than 110,000 Iowans were unemployed.  According to Iowa Workforce Development’s latest report, 87,000 Iowans are looking for work.  That number, while still too high and worrisome, is a tangible sign of progress.  It is also a reminder that we can and need to continue to do better.

In the last few days, we have had the opportunity to review the changes in the state budget over the last two sessions.  Frankly, it really is quite remarkable.  Normally a change in law is needed to alter the budget process.  But this chamber has fundamentally changed the way state government budgets because we believed it was the right thing to do.  In the past, legislators, including Republicans, underfunded previous commitments, spent more than the state was taking in and used one-time money for ongoing expenses.  I’m proud to say those practices have ended.

When House Republicans took charge of the state budget in January 2011, Governor Culver had signed the four largest budgets in the state history, forced a $500 million property tax increase, borrowed over $800 million, and left a $900 million spending gap for Governor Branstad and the new legislature.

House Republicans have led the way towards a healthy and accountable state budget that has measurable results for the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa.  We have turned a $900 million spending shortfall into $624 million in reserves, $300 million in ending balance and $90 million in the House Republican created Taxpayer Trust Fund.  That $390 million should be returned to the taxpayers through broad-based tax relief and will be this body’s first order of business next year.

In Fiscal Year 2011 the state was spending 118% of total available general fund revenue.  In Fiscal Year 2012, we reduced that to 93% of total available general fund revenue and in Fiscal Year 2013 it will be 95%.

In terms of on-going revenue, which as you might have heard is a far more important measurement for House Republicans, the state will be spending just 99% in Fiscal Year 2012 and 2013.  In the future, we must remain committed to spending less than the state collects from the taxpayers.

Despite skepticism, we have, at a minimum, reduced the cost of state government by $360 million a combination of efficiencies and reprioritization.

Additionally, this General Assembly backfilled the intentional act of underfunding Iowa’s K through 12 education system to ensure property taxpayers were not saddled with that burden; and we honored our commitments to parents and students by funding previous commitments.

House Republicans see it as our duty to cut out waste in government spending so our state can be more efficient and effective.  A better run state government means Iowans get to keep more of their own money.  Over the last two years House Republicans have persistently tackled tax relief.  We sent a 20% income tax reduction to the Senate.  We sent four separate and different property tax relief bills across the Rotunda; and like most bills in this chamber all four proposals received bi-partisan support.  Regrettably, we could not find common ground with the Senate on these ideas.

All Iowans deserve to see tax relief.  It helps Iowa’s economy and puts people back to work.  House Republicans will not be deterred or be distracted from this goal.  We will be back next year continuing our fight for the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa.

When each of you walk out of here and return home you can say with pride that the House restored commonsense budgeting principles to state government while funding Iowans’ priorities including: education, public safety, healthcare and infrastructure.

In closing, I wish to thank my wife Cathy and each of our four children for their never ending support.  Thank you to each of you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your Speaker for the last two years.  It is an honor and privilege that I do not take lightly.

During session, each day I wake up thinking about how to move Iowa forward with the hard working taxpayers in mind.  We have made progress for the taxpayers but our work is not done.  We must continue to build upon the success of the last two years.  Iowans deserve it.  Thank you and God bless the great State of Iowa.

 

Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn (R-Boone):

Thank you Mr. President.

Colleagues, friends, family and all Iowans:

On the first day of this session, now many weeks ago, I started my opening day speech with a famous Winston Churchill quote that goes as follows, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.”

I asked all of us to have the courage to put aside our differences and work in a spirit of true bi-partisanship on the enormous challenges that face our great state.  I asked us to provide the measurable results that the hardworking Iowa taxpayers deserve.

I said we must listen  not only to what our colleagues have to say – but most especially to those 60,000 bosses that are back home in each of our districts, counting on us to always do what is right for their families, neighborhoods, communities and schools.

Did we provide the measurable results that Iowa taxpayers deserve this session?

In most cases, we did not.

When it comes to job creation, property tax relief, world-class education and government rule and regulation reform,  this Legislature failed to make the necessary strides that hardworking Iowans deserved.

As Senate Republicans, we maintained a laser-like focus on job creation and career development this session, but it is disappointing that our colleagues across the aisle opted against a full debate on all of the issues that would lead to more job and career development in our great state.

This should not have been the session to say “No” to good job creation ideas like authentic, aggressive and permanent property tax relief or comprehensive rule and regulatory reform, just because they were ideas that originated from the other side of the aisle.

Instead, Iowans were treated to more of the same.  Over the past few years, this has become a pattern that we cannot afford to continue to repeat in the years ahead.

So what did we accomplish?

We did pass a state budget for the upcoming year – and thankfully it was done much earlier than last session.

However, this new budget continues to spend far too much and we missed an opportunity to put into place more government reforms and efficiencies that would lead to systemic change and long-term savings.

As we look to the future, Senate Republicans pledge that we will continue to stand by sound budgeting principles like not spending more than we take in and not raising taxes in order to balance the budget. Just as hardworking Iowa taxpayers tighten their belts, so too should government.

We must continue to wean ourselves off the practice of using one-time dollars for ongoing expenses and continue to provide transparency and accountability.  Our budgeting decisions should not just be about this year – we must think about the next decade and the next generation.

The reason I ran for the Senate is because of my four children and now my five grandchildren. I want them to be able to grow up in Iowa – in safe communities with good schools and as they get older – be able to find good jobs and build rewarding careers right here if they so choose.

That is why it is such a tragedy that we missed a golden opportunity to fully revamp and upgrade our property tax system.

The Iowa House, time after time, passed aggressive, authentic and permanent property tax relief with broad bi-partisan support.  They should be commended.  This body should be disappointed.

So now we have work to do in the future, because Senate Republicans know we cannot afford to have property tax rates that rival that of downtown New York City. A property tax system, like the one offered by Senate Democrats this year, that simply shifts around the tax burden, picks winners and losers, relies on state revenue triggers and onerous applications will not work and is not acceptable.

This Senate Democrat plan proved to be so unappealing that even their own Democrat members could not stomach it.

Since property tax relief did not happen this session, next year Senate Republicans look forward to working closely with Governor Branstad, our colleagues in the House of Representatives and those Senate Democrats willing to be guided by something other than the party line to make it happen.

We will provide genuine, aggressive and permanent property tax relief to hardworking Iowa taxpayers.

Along with property tax reform and responsible budgeting comes removing some of the barriers to growth by getting a handle on our increasingly burdensome government rules and regulations.

Last session, Senate Republicans spearheaded an effort to go across the state to hear directly from Iowans about how government red tape is holding back their success. We then put together a series of ten proposals aimed at re-opening Iowa for business.

In nearly all cases this session, our colleagues across the aisle missed ample opportunities to make it easier for more Iowans to realize their dreams and pursue their ambitions.

Instead of allowing a fair hearing and a rigorous debate on the merits of these common sense proposals, Senate Democrats mostly turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the job creators, entrepreneurs and small business owners across this state who have been ardently clamoring for some common sense and for some relief.

We also failed to muster the courage to tackle challenges that exist in education. While one education reform bill will go to the governor’s desk, it is a far cry from what is truly needed. We could and should have done more for our children – the future of our state.

Education should be about preparing our students to achieve success and be productive citizens. Senate Republicans believe education should be about achievement and teaching our children the necessary skills they need to successfully compete in the global marketplace.

As such, let’s get back to setting high standards and expectations for our students and challenge them to reach their fullest potential. We believe students will rise to the challenge if we provide them with world-class standards, ambitious benchmarks and a rigorous curriculum grounded in the fundamentals of reading, writing, math, science, history and civics.

Like property tax relief, rule and regulatory reform and finding more ways to make government more efficient and effective, true education reform will apparently have to wait until next year.

This Senate also missed opportunities to shield Iowans from nearly all aspects of Obamacare, failed to increase our base load energy supply, failed to take major steps to protect life and failed to give Iowans a vote on the very basic definition of marriage.

In the cause of promoting freedom, liberty and opportunity, we could and should have done more.

So clearly, there are significant challenges awaiting next year’s Legislature.

The 85th General Assembly will have its hands full because the 84th failed to act in so many ways.

This November is likely to provide this body a lot of new Senators and with that a lot of new energy and new ideas.

We should welcome that.

Why?

Because this state’s greatest asset is our people and the work they do for their communities, schools, churches and most importantly – each other.

Their independence, self-reliance, honesty, resilience, work ethic, volunteerism and concern and care for others serves as an inspiration.

We have incredible, hardworking people in all 947 communities doing extraordinary things to renew the promise that exists in all 99 counties. These Iowans just want to make a good living and raise their families, and they deserve a government that respects, appreciates and encourages them to do so.

It is a blessing that this is a part-time citizen Legislature as it keeps our public servants closer  to “We The People”.

Mr. President, before I conclude, I wish to again say farewell to eight of our retiring citizen-legislators. To my good friends Senators McKinley, Kettering, Seymour and Bacon and to Senators Hancock, Rielly, Fraise and Kibbie, I wish you continued good health and many years of happiness.

I also want to thank all of the clerks, mail room workers, phone message takers, doormen and clerks. Thank you to our hardworking and dedicated Senate Republican Caucus staff: John, Kirsten, Tom, Josh, Pam, Jim, Gannon, Eric and Russ and our interns Matt and Josh. I wish to also thank my tireless staff – Nicole and Don and Marce for their continued hard work.

Thank you as well to Secretary Marshall’s staff, the LSA staff and all the other great folks who make this place function.

Mr. President, in closing, I just want to again reiterate how honored I am to represent my central Iowa constituents and to serve as the Senate Republican Leader.

I can say with the utmost assurance that in my 16 years here, this is the most talented caucus I have ever been a part of and we have had some great ones. We truly have an entrepreneurial caucus of individuals – many of whom are current or former employers with the expertise, knowledge and experience needed make Iowa the envy of the world.

So as we all depart today, may you all go back home to your districts and enjoy your families.

Please continue to celebrate what makes this state so special and unique.

I wish there was more we had done this year, but I pray that next year’s legislature will have the courage to do what this year’s didn’t.

Thank you very much, may God bless our great state and may God bless America.

 

House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner):

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the House.

It is hard to fully describe the honor of serving in this building but it is not difficult to know who to thank. I think I speak for us all when I say thank you to our constituents. They put their trust in us and keep us focused on what is important. It is the people of Iowa that will always make this job worthwhile.

I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. You all give so much of yourselves to do this job. It is not easy taking time away from family, work and life. But you have all done that so the people in your district could be well represented.

Minority Leader McCarthy, your caucus and your staff deserve to be commended for their tireless work and their contribution. I am proud of the bipartisan spirit that can be found in much of the legislation we have done this year.

Thank you to all the people who keep this building running – day and night. You often work without recognition, but we appreciate all you do. Thank you to Tom, Katelyn and all the pages. I am so impressed with all of you and know you have a bright future.

A special thank you to our staff: Jeff, Lon, Jason, Amanda, Kristi, Lew, Louis, Brad, Dustin, Jill, Matt, Josie, Terri, Tony and Angie. You are simply the best at what you do.

When I was thinking about what I have learned over the last two sessions and what we have accomplished, I kept coming back to one thought: big things do not often happen all at once. A building is not merely placed on the corner of a street, rather it is built brick by brick. It is the culmination of many smaller contributions through which big things are done.

It is that idea which describes the work we have accomplished over these last two years. There is no magic bill to cure all woes, and NO… waiting for one to come is not what made the last two sessions run long. To effect change, you need to make a consistent effort to focus on your priorities and principles.

Over the last two sessions we have made a consistent effort to focus on delivering a more effective and efficient state government for the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa. First and foremost that was accomplished by delivering on our promise that we would live within our means, just like Iowans have to. We committed to not spend more than we took in, and we have stood strong.

We have made the budget process more transparent and accountable. We have dramatically reduced the number of “notwithstandings” in the budget. In fact, RIIF went from 98% “notwithstandings” to only 25%. That is significant progress, but clearly there is work yet to be done. Over the years, many things were moved off budget which made it hard to determine exactly how much the State was spending each year. We tackled that, not all at once, but each day as we worked through the budgets.

We have created stability in the budget by refusing to spend one-time money for ongoing expenses. Again, this took vigilance on a daily basis by Representative Raecker and his team. Old habits die hard, but they fought for it and the financial health of our government is better as a result. Nothing is harder on our communities or erodes the public confidence more than rollercoaster budgeting. Using stable funding sources ensures we keep the promises we make and creates certainty for Iowans.

It goes without saying that balancing a budget is hard work. Even harder is finding agreement on a budget when you have many cooks in the kitchen. An expedient choice to help resolve the budget in the past was to knowingly underfund the commitments we had made to Iowans in order to balance the budget or spend more in other areas.

That is precisely the situation we found ourselves in last year with K-12 funding. Schools were underfunded by $156 million, which placed an unfair burden on our school districts and the property taxpayers. To remedy this, we committed a historic amount of new funding to education last year. Intentionally underfunding known obligations to balance the budget is irresponsible and I am proud we kept our promise to avoid it.

Sometimes making a positive change and doing the right thing can also be the easy thing to do! We made a commitment to conducting our work in the light of day, which meant we would not debate in the middle of the night. Representative Cownie, what could be easier than NOT debating after midnight? Even if it was not convenient at times, it was the right thing to do.

We wanted Iowans to have the opportunity to be participants in this process. Part of that was making sure we were not working in the dead of night. Another part of that was providing for streaming video of floor activity. What a wonderful way to truly open the doors to the people’s House.

What I covered today is only a small sampling of the many positive contributions that have come over these last two years. When you add them up, you are looking at a substantive change in the culture of state government. We should be proud that we have held ourselves accountable to the commitments we made to Iowans. That is what they expect from us and it is what they deserve.

The progress is significant, but we should not lose sight that there is more to be done. We have to turn the cultural change over the last two years into a pattern of practice. We have to continue making the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa a priority. We have to keep working towards delivering a world class education to our children. We have to continue striving to deliver the most efficient and effective government in the nation. We absolutely must continue to ensure state government is aiding job creation, not impeding it.

That has been our focus. That will continue to be our mission.

I want to thank Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds for their effort to be partners in our shared goals. Your leadership and the message you have carried across this state have been instrumental.

Thank you to the members of my caucus. I am humbled everyday by your hard work and the opportunity you have provided me. Thank you to the retirees for your service. You will be missed. I am proud that you will return home knowing you left our state in a better position and that you were able to make a difference.

Mr. Speaker, as always thank you for your leadership and your friendship. The 84th General Assembly has come to a close and we should be proud of the work that was done in this chamber.


About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.




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