Show me the money

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

With great pomp and circumstance, Democratic majorities convened the United States Congress and Iowa Legislature into session this week, promising a new direction from Republican leadership of the past. In Iowa, the Democrats control the House, Senate and Governor's office, a majority unseen since 1964.

After the speeches, the ones where both parties agree to work together for the common good, the respective bodies began the task of governing. On the state and federal agendas is an increase in the minimum wage.

Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate to raise the minimum wage in Iowa from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour over a two year period. Higher pay for teachers is also on the agenda, as is increased funding for preschool programs and more money for the state's public colleges.

One of the more common sense proposals that the legislature will consider is a measure to allow small businesses to pool together to lower the costs of health insurance for employees -- something the federal government has been proposing for the past six years. There is also a plan to include parents in a state program that offers health coverage to children of the working poor.

These are all worthy goals, and some would argue that they are essential for our state to remain competitive.

There's just one problem -- they all cost money. It's all well and good to propose new spending, but, in the end, someone will have to pay the bill. In a year where these same lawmakers are discussing ways to lower commercial property taxes, it seems as if there will be a great deal of number crunching that will need to be done.

In Iowa, we have this little thing called a balanced budget amendment. It requires lawmakers to bring spending in line with the revenues they bring in. The price tag on this spending will be high. It will be interesting to see how our lawmakers plan to pay for everything.