One of the primary functions of the legislature is to pass a balanced budget. As you may recall, last year's session lasted two months longer than normal because of a stalemate over how much money should be spent by state government.
As this current session unfolds, it is obvious the same problems exist ñ the Senate, House and Governor will all have different budget targets.We have seen the Governor's proposed budget, so we know where he is coming from. House Republicans have not reached a target yet, but I know the number will be much lower than the Governor's, and the Senate Democrat plan, as well. The main sticking point for this year seems to be the ending FY balance. What do we do with $250 million? If we spend it, which is totally within the law, it means we would be using one-time money for ongoing programs.
In other words, we would be adding this money to future budget years. This is the wrong path to travel. We have done this before and only end up in trouble.
Several years ago, the Legislature established the Veteran's Trust Fund. The problem is, no money was provided. Proceeds from certain lottery tickets are now flowing into the fund, but not fast enough. We could fill the trust fund up to $50 million; never have to worry about it again, and most importantly, begin using it for what it was intended ñ to assist our state's veterans.
Some have suggested paying off the bonds for the Honey Creek Resort in southern Iowa. This would then free up money for state infrastructure needs.The list of possibilities goes on and on. Finally, lawmakers could actually do something frugal, like saving the money! As I look at the big picture, it would seem to be a good idea to be careful in what we do.
The federal government is obviously in serious financial condition.That is, we, the citizens and taxpayers are in trouble. If the feds decide to make spending cuts, which they should, states will see revenue streams from Uncle Sam begin to shrink. States can manage money better than Washington, so cost shifting is not a problem.The problem is states would need time to adjust, and it would be wise to have some cash in the bank to deal with the federal cuts.
I am also concerned about financial conditions in other parts of the world, and how an economic crisis might affect us. We also need to remember the serious flooding that occurred in western Iowa this spring and summer, as the state may need to provide some financial assistance.
Right now, I come down on the side of being cautious. For me, the bottom line is this ñ if we do not save the money or somehow get it off the table, it will be spent. I have seen it before, and history has a way of repeating itself.
Finally, we will pass a balanced budget. I do not believe it will take as long this year, but if it does, I am willing to stay as long as necessary to ensure tax dollars are spent wisely, and tax payers are protected.
Enrollment in HAWK-I continues to grow which is creating a situation where the state is using up its federal dollars and needs more. HAWK-I is the children's healthcare program. The federal government has a procedure to handle situations like this, but you will never believe what happened next ñ well, maybe you will.
I am running out of room, but to make a long story short, Iowa applied for an additional $3.8 million so the feds sent us $25 million!Apparently, the state can keep the money, so we will most likely use it to help with Medicaid costs and the new mental health reform proposal.
Only in America!
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home on weekends at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.My home address is P.O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.