I’m happy to welcome you all to the second session of the 85th General Assembly.
I don’t know about what your experiences during the interim were, but I have never been thanked for the legislature’s work as much as I have been this last eight months. To be clear I don’t think all of a sudden we were smarter or harder working, I think it was that the 150 members of the general assembly and Governor Branstad decided to have what ended up being an exceptional focus on Iowans and advancing public policy that advanced our state.
And while we may have been rigid in maintaining our principles, we were flexible and committed to finding resolution within them. The product ended up being something that all Iowans could be proud of.
This commitment to the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa is what we should have again this year, so that when we walk out of this building after the final adjournment for 2014 we can once again say we put Iowans first, moved the state forward, and that the state of Iowa is better for us having been here.
I trust that you are ready to do that, and to have an efficient session – I expect this will not be a year in which we burn daylight.
Some say that since this is an election year both parties will retreat to their respective corners, lob partisan bills back and forth all while taking jabs at each other in the press. That particular strategy has been going on in Washington, D.C. for quite some time and I think we all can agree that it has proven to be a pathway to ineffective government, and simply put, an absolute disaster at times.
Instead of concentrating on political tensions and campaigns, let’s find common ground. Instead of imposing policies that pit one group of Iowans against another, let’s work on behalf of all Iowans. Instead of focusing exclusively on our differences, let’s focus on what is achievable. Iowans expect this of us and we should expect nothing less of ourselves.
House Republicans will spend time and energy on bipartisan efforts to effectively manage the state budget and create certainty for Iowa families and Iowa employers.
House Republicans have set the tone on the state budget. Gone are the days of spending more than the state takes in while borrowing even more money. While states around us struggle to make their budgets work or are strangled by debt, we have created a fiscally strong and stable Iowa. This is not a coincidence. It is only possible because we have fiercely stuck to these core principles:
Do not spend more money than the state takes in.
Do not use one-time money to pay for on-going expenses.
Do not intentionally underfund entitlement programs to balance the state’s budget.
Return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.
Three years ago, Iowa faced a $900 million budget shortfall. As the 2014 session begins, Iowa is spending just 88% of what our outdated expenditure limitation law allows, our budget reserves remain full and the ending balance is projected to be $928 million. Finally, House Republicans led the way on debt reduction by using a portion of the ending balance to pay off $114 million in bond debt earlier than required.
As we make decisions this year, we must recognize we still face challenging budget times and we must not endanger these accomplishments.
Opportunities to do more are before us.
As a parent, there’s a principle that I’ve tried to instill in my children– a simple idea in regards to the resources they have. Save some, spend some and give some back. With that in mind, we should continue to focus on spending less than we collect, paying off past debts and commitments, and sending the rest back to the hardworking taxpayers who sent the state their money in the first place.
We also have an opportunity to create certainty for Iowans. Those who create jobs and employ our friends and neighbors and the folks who fill those jobs with an honest day’s work deserve to know they can count on stability from their state government.
With the constant overreach, intrusion and insecurity made by the federal government, we need to be especially aware of the challenges facing Iowa employers and workers and lessen the burdens we ask them to shoulder at the state level.
We must continue to send the message across the country that Iowa is a great place to do business and House Republicans believe this is a great time to look at our income tax code and find opportunities to leave more money in the pockets of all Iowans.
Working hand in hand with employers, we must continue to advance policies that encourage investment in our state and workforce, and make sure our regulatory environment is not burdensome. Additionally, we need the education opportunities for Iowans to ensure they can get the training they need to take advantage of these jobs.
Last year, through the skilled worker initiative we invested significant resources in job opportunities and growth designed to cultivate future economic health for hardworking Iowans. This year we will continue our collaboration with community colleges on workforce training and job creation.
Iowa needs more people trained for the jobs that employers need to fill. Many of those jobs do not require a four-year degree. Iowa employers need skilled workers like: welders, computer techs, nurses, and many others. We need to continue the investments that train Iowans for these jobs and we need a bipartisan commitment to encourage Iowans to pursue these fields.
Too often, political rhetoric in this building focuses on the extremes. Today, I instead choose to put a stronger focus on the middle. Those Iowans who “play by the rules” – have a job, a few kids, a house or a car – who want to be left alone to raise their families and enjoy their communities. How can we make their lives easier?
Are we offering them relief from the squeeze of federal, state and local taxes? Are we looking for ways to make it easier for them to send their kids to college? Are we removing barricades that stop them from improving their own financial health? House Republicans are focused on tearing down obstacles for these Iowans.
We will once again look for ways to freeze tuition at the state universities to make college affordable for Iowa families. Across the country institutions are routinely raising tuition on students, putting a quality four year education out of reach for many. The work that our Regents institutions are doing with us to hold this line is important. And while we look forward to seeing the results of their efficiency strategies and studies, we also challenge them to find the greatest amount of savings possible – going through their budgets line by line, just as we have done here at the statehouse.
On behalf of the hard working taxpayers of Iowa we look forward to seeing the various proposals from Governor Branstad and the Iowa Senate. We look forward to working through the challenges in front of us in order to move the state of Iowa ahead.
If we stay focused on prudent management of their tax dollars, assisting in growing Iowa’s economy and opportunities, and also making sure Iowans have access to the training they need to advance themselves and their families we will have another productive year.
Every year in my opening day speech I offer a gentle reminder that the desks we sit in belong to the 30,000 Iowans we each represent back home. The people who send us here expect us to do our jobs, just like they do every day.
Every vote you take, I hope you’ll think of the small business owner who struggles to keep their doors open, but without whom there would be no town square. I hope you will consider the farmer who feeds the world every day. I hope you will imagine the folks in the middle, the parents who play by the rules and don’t ask for anything except a level playing field.
These hardworking Iowans all have the same hopes and concerns. They look at their checkbooks and worry about paying the bills, about their children’s future and about making ends meet. These seats are theirs and every day we sit in them we should be focused on how to unite in their best interests.
Now — let’s get to work.