My week at the Capital started on Tuesday as Monday was a national holiday. This allowed me to stop by my local doctor's office to find out I had strep throat. I guess being in Des Moines does not mean that you are protected from all of the bugs that are being passed around.



I've found out that it doesn't take long for my calendar to get full. Tuesday was Veteran's Day on the Hill. We had a lot of visitors from all over the state including Allamakee and Winneshiek County. It was great to see so many veterans and listen to their concerns. We started to have subcommittee meetings to approve bills to appear before the Transportation, Commerce and Nat'l Resource's committees.



Allowable Growth: Funding a System in Need of Repair



Ronald Reagan once said, "The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much." Keeping this in mind Senate Republicans think it is vitally important that we thoroughly examine the system that has been funding school districts in Iowa: Allowable Growth. Should we be spending money on a system that is admittedly in need of repair?



If we are committed to rebuilding our education system back to the top-tier status it should be, we should not put the cart before the horse. The money we give schools is useless without the proper tools. We need to focus on getting to the root of the problems before we decide to dedicate more money to it. I think all parties can agree that Iowa's education system falls short in some areas and everyone at the table is committed to fixing those problems. However, fiscally irresponsible practices should not sustain a system in need of repair.



The Senate Democrats released their Allowable Growth proposal this week. Their plan would set the rate at 4% for Fiscal Year 2014, providing $135 million and an increase of $42 million in property taxes. Make no mistake, we care about our schools, our teachers and especially our students. We do not want to do them a disservice by simply throwing money at them. The Democrat proposal would continue the practice of taking away local control from districts, demanding they meet state directives instead. These directives are part of the system that needs an overhaul. We want the best for our children and can provide that to them in the form of education if we take a step back and focus on raising student achievement levels. Throwing money at an issue never fixes it but perpetuates the problem.



While 4.0% allowable growth in Fiscal Year 2014 may not seem like too much to ask for, this is irresponsible spending at its finest. It is these types of irresponsible spending practices that have hurt local districts in the past. For three consecutive years under Democrat control in the Legislature and under Governor Culver, schools suffered over $450 million in underfunding after being promised increases. Overpromising and under delivering hurts school districts and Republicans will continue to push for responsible budgeting.



Allowable Growth is part of the overall education reform puzzle that we will be talking about over the next few weeks. Senate Republicans support responsible spending practices that do not overcommit state budget resources. We do not want state spending to continue to grow at a rate that outpaces increases in revenue.



Allowable Growth negotiations are a process and as discussions and proposals continue Senate Republicans plan on serving as the voice of reason. We may be in the minority but we will remain outspoken for common sense solutions with fiscal sensibilities to the issues near and dear to Iowans. As the education reform pieces start to fall into place, Iowans can rest assured that Senate Republicans can and will find solutions to things like raising student achievement levels and enabling students to compete in a global marketplace while remaining fiscally responsible.



Taxpayer Trust Fund

Helping Iowans get their money back





Over the last several years, Senate Republicans have had a goal of helping Iowans find a way to keep more of their hard-earned dollars. Republicans regained control of the Iowa House and the Governor's Office in 2011. We inherited the largest spending gap in state history. Projected spending for FY 2012 outpaced projected revenues by over $1 billion. Thanks to strong budgeting principals and fiscal restraints put in place by Legislative Republicans and Governor Branstad, we turned the fiscal ship of Iowa around. The state now has a healthy projected ending balance for the current fiscal year of over $800 million.



Republicans know that the money is not ours. It is the citizens of Iowa hard-earned dollars collected through over taxation. Republicans in both chambers want to return this money to the people. In order to accomplish this, Republicans in the House and Senate both filed bills that would remove the cap on the Taxpayer Trust Fund and return these funds to the taxpayers that have made these overpayments.



The Taxpayer Trust Fund was established in 2011 to capture and set aside over-collection of taxpayer dollars. This was the only way Republicans could protect this money from expenditure by the Democrats and return the money to the people. The amount of money transferred each year into the Trust Fund is determined by subtracting the adjusted revenue estimate for that year from the actual revenues received. The difference, up to $60 million, gets transferred into the Trust Fund for the following fiscal year.



The balance in the Trust Fund after two fiscal years is projected to be $120 million. If Republicans are successful in passing our bills to remove the cap, and transfer the ending balance into the fund, the projected balance in the Fund will grow to almost $800 million for FY 2014 instead of just $120 million. That is a lot more money that can be put back into family budgets throughout the state.



Family budgets have been tight and with such a large ending balance in the state bank, we can provide this tax credit and should not delay! Now is the time to ease the tax burden on Iowans and help stimulate the state economy. Senate Republicans are committed this Legislative Session to helping Iowans to keep more of their hard earned money and this is a good first step.



In contrast to the work Republicans are doing, Senate Democrats introduced legislation this week that would rob the Taxpayers Trust Fund in support of greater state spending. This fund should be protected and used for the sole purpose of returning taxpayer dollars back to the taxpayer.