Thank you Mr. Speaker.
Ladies and gentlemen of the House, our guests here today, and to all Iowans listening and watching online, welcome back to the Iowa House of Representatives.
A special welcome to the newly elected members of this body, your fresh perspectives and ideas are a welcome addition to the chamber.
Rep. Smith, congratulations on your election as leader of your caucus. I look forward to building on our past experiences of working together to find solutions to important issues facing Iowans.
I know you will all agree that it is truly a special honor to return here today to work on behalf of Iowans toward a better future for our state.
After spending time with Iowans as I travel around the state, there is something on their minds that I would challenge the legislature to give serious consideration. There is increasing concern that gridlock has taken hold in Washington D.C. What was once an effective legislative process has instead devolved into crisis management, unable to escape a campaign mentality.
The relevance of this dysfunction is clear when you consider how much of the work we do in this building is in some way tied to federal programs. My challenge to you is to carefully consider whether there are opportunities for us to better serve Iowans by cutting some of the federal strings that have attached themselves to our efforts here.
We must focus on how to best serve Iowans. As congress and federal agencies become too inflexible and unresponsive, perhaps it is best that we take a more state-based approach.
With public confidence in the federal government at an all time low, it is a credit to the work done by the Iowa House, Senate and Governor Branstad that Iowans do have confidence in their state government.
In Iowa, we still put people before politics. We still come together and get our work done. We still hold ourselves accountable. When we say that we are going to let Iowa taxpayers keep more of their money, we do it. When we commit to common sense budget principles, we follow them. We work hard to deliver on our promises.
We must continue this tradition. We must continue to provide the example of leadership that Iowans expect and that Washington, D.C. so desperately needs.
The 2013 session saw the passage of significant legislation. Property tax reform, transforming our education model, and innovating how we provide health care for needy Iowans are all noteworthy accomplishments and certain to be part of the legacy of the 85th General Assembly.
Each one of these pieces of legislation has tasked public and private institutions to invest time and resources to implement them. Our challenge now, is to make sure these bipartisan initiatives have a chance to succeed. We must resist the temptation to change course midstream and create uncertainty. If we remain resolved, I am excited about the long-term positive effects these initiatives will have on Iowa.
This year we must build upon the strong foundation that we have laid. Let’s identify our common goals and go about the business of finding solutions that work best for Iowa.
We have done an extraordinary job of changing the culture that surrounds the appropriation process. As a result, our spending is a healthy reflection of revenue. We are among the most financially secure states in the nation and there is once again confidence that we will honor the commitments we have made.
Vigilance is needed to maintain this fiscal health going forward. It only takes one undisciplined budget to destroy the progress that we have made. If we continue to adhere to the common sense budgeting principles we have set out, Iowa will continue to be prepared for whatever lays ahead.
I am encouraged that the unemployment rate in Iowa has dropped to a five-year low and that it is among the lowest in the nation. Thanks to the hardworking nature of Iowans, we are recovering from the fiscal crisis.
As we move forward, we should focus on policies that increase opportunities for low-income Iowans to find high-paying careers. Let’s continue a focus on producing a world-class workforce. Let’s make a college degree more affordable. Let’s make skills training more accessible. Let’s make technology and high-speed internet more available.
That is a job-growth agenda. It is an agenda that will promote a strong middle class.
We should make the dream of upward mobility and opportunity a more likely one for all Iowans.
Let’s continue our approach of focusing on the priorities of Iowans and being efficient in finding a way forward. I am thankful for the opportunity we have before us to do this together.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Let’s get back to work!
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.