US Senate

May 15th, 2014

Ernst’s Record in Iowa Senate Lacks Any Effort to Cut State Spending

Earlier this week, Philip Rucker and Dan Balz of the Washington Post wrote an article about how Joni Ernst’s television ad about castrating hogs transformed Iowa’s Republican U.S. Senate race.  Indeed, the provocative ad did more for Ernst’s candidacy than anything else she had done in the race, but does the ad’s pork cutting message stand up to the record that Ernst has compiled in the four years she has served in the Iowa Senate?

During Ernst’s tenure in the Iowa Senate, state spending has increased by nearly a billion dollars.  The state budget ballooned from $6.010 billion in fiscal year 2012 to $6.959 billion for fiscal year 2015, which begins in July.  That accounts for almost a 14 percent increase in spending over the four years that Ernst has been in the legislature.  Federal spending over the same time period has actually grown at a much slower rate.  Federal spending increased from $3.7956 trillion in fiscal year 2012 to $4.0595 trillion in fiscal year 2015, an increase of six percent.

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As a member of the minority party in the Iowa Senate, Ernst has little control over the final budget deals that are agreed to by House Republicans, Senate Democrats, and Governor Branstad, but that doesn’t mean a legislator can’t use the legislative process to cut spending.

An examination of Ernst’s senate record shows that she has never offered an amendment that would cut spending in her time in the Iowa Senate.  Perhaps that’s why Ernst uses her experience on the farm castrating pigs to tout her pork cutting in her campaign ad and not her record in the Iowa Senate.  In fact, instead of cutting pork in the Iowa Senate, Ernst has a record of sponsoring amendments that actually increase spending.

Now it’s hard to argue with the things that Ernst wanted to spend money on, but once again her record as a state senator is at odds with the candidate she portrays herself to be in her campaign ads.  Ernst sponsored amendments in 2013 that spent $11 million on intermodal transportation, an additional $9 million on pensions, and  $240,000 on additional funding for non-public textbooks.

Ernst also sponsored an amendment to start a preschool scholarship program that would be an unlimited appropriation based on 25 percent of the K through 12 funding amount, which would be anywhere from $57 million under a one year Democrat proposal to $353 million if fully funded.

It would be one thing if Ernst fought to fund some project but then attacked state spending by proposing amendments to cut spending in other areas, but she’s never offered an amendment to cut spending.  Worse yet, in addition to being complacent with the ever-growing size of state government, Ernst supported a gas tax increase and a sales tax on the internet.  Ernst likes to talk about how she had to live within her means growing up, but that’s not been her approach as a state senator.

The message in Ernst’s “squeal” ad is that if you send her to Washington, she’s going to cut wasteful spending, repeal Obamacare, and balance the budget.  Yet when given a chance to cut spending or fight Obamacare in Iowa, she took a pass.

Once again, the rhetoric of Ernst’s catchy ads doesn’t match her record.  If she didn’t “make ‘em squeal” in Des Moines, it’s doubtful she’s going to make the big spenders squeal in Washington.



About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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