“If Washington operated more like Iowa, America would be much better off.”
- Speaker Kraig Paulsen, End of Session Remarks
Many have referred to the 2013 legislative session as a “landmark” year. In the final days of the session, bi-partisan agreements were reached on several pieces of legislation which will each have a positive impact on Iowa's future.
After the final gavel, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass a balanced budget, comprehensive education reform, a revamped medicaid program, and a property tax reform plan which represents the largest tax cut in the history of our state.
A Balanced Budget
The number one task of each session is to craft the state budget for the coming year. For the third year in a row, House Republicans fulfilled our commitment to provide strong budget leadership. Three years ago, Iowa faced a $900 million budget shortfall, with budgeting practices that looked too much like what is going on in Washington, D.C. This was unacceptable and Iowans demanded a change.
Again this year, we have held true to three fundamental budget principles that Iowa taxpayers deserve:
- Aligning ongoing spending with ongoing revenue.
- Stop spending one-time money on ongoing expenses.
- Prevent the intentional underfunding of entitlement programs.
The bipartisan budget passed this session meets all three criteria. For the coming fiscal year, the state will spend just 88 percent of available revenue. Ongoing state expenditures match ongoing revenue. One time spending projects are funded out of one-time dollars.
To change the culture of large, entrenched institutions is extremely difficult to accomplish, yet it has been done. This is not something to be taken lightly. We have charted a new course for future legislatures, one that puts hardworking Iowa taxpayers first, not government.
House Republicans led the way on debt reduction by using a portion of the ending balance to pay off $114 million in state obligations earlier than required, while also fulfilling our obligations in regards to state pension funds. Additionally, House Republicans made substantial investments in water quality and one-time infrastructure projects at the regents universities.
The Republican-led Debt Reduction bill:
- Pays off $114 million in state debt years earlier than required.
- Fulfills a promise made by previous legislatures to the Judicial Retirement System and the Peace Officer’s Retirement System by making a $110.2 million payment to bring both pension funds to the obligated 80 percent threshold.
- Makes an investment of $34.1 million to one-time infrastructure projects at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa.
- Invests $20 million into water quality initiatives through the Iowa Department of Agriculture
Property Tax Reform and Relief
Iowa has the third highest commercial property taxes in the nation and the 16th highest residential property taxes in the nation. Iowans have were very clear that they expected property tax reform and relief this year at the statehouse.
The 2013 Legislature passed a $560 million tax relief and reform package that impacts all classifications of property. This package contains not just unpredictable tax credits, but provides meaningful and predictable relief for all taxpayers. Annual assessment growth is limited to 3 percent, down from the current 4 percent cap. There is a 10 percent rollback in commercial and industrial properties, which will boost economic activity for Iowa's business and industry.
Also important is that for the first time in a decade, the Homestead Tax Credit is fully funded, which is direct property tax relief for residential taxpayers. House Republicans also led the way for the passage of a tax credit helping beginning farmers succeed. Finally, we directed new resources toward jobs and economic development initiatives aimed at getting Iowans back to work and improving Iowa’s economy.
House Republicans are committed to improving the quality and rigor of the education our children are receiving. Students must possess the skills necessary to succeed in college or in the workforce.
In the education reform plan passed by the House and Senate, there is new flexibility for school districts, innovation for teachers, accountability for parents and protection for taxpayers. There will be new, modern evaluation and accountability measures, which help help to ensure Iowa students are receiving the first-rate instruction they deserve.
I am also very excited about new freedoms for private and homeschool families. Homeschool parents will be free to educate their children free from unnecessary bureaucratic restrictions, and will now be allowed to teach drivers education themselves. Our private and parochial schools will be free to seek their own third-party independent accreditation which matches their particular needs.
This year I also had the privilege to floor-manage a bill to raise the total amount of the School Tuition Organization (STO) tax credit program, which has been extremely successful at allowing lower-income families to opportunity to seek the private education of their choice.
Iowa Health and Wellness
In the final days of the session, House Republicans crafted a bipartisan health care plan that focuses on making Iowans healthier, without bowing to federal pressure to expand Medicaid. Since the plan focuses on health, wellness and prevention, costs can be controlled at the state level saving taxpayers money, while increasing access to health care for many Iowans.
This is not the “Medicaid Expansion” that has been pushed for by many, but rather represents a new Iowa-based solution. This plan does not simply pour more money into a broken system, and sets forth several new mechanisms to control costs, and incentivize enrollees to manage their own health and wellness.