Dems, GOP disagree on Iowa budget picture
Despite relatively good news on revenue coming into the state’s general fund, a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad says the administration’s goals of cutting the cost of government by 15 percent won’t change. But Democratic leaders say recent budget data should change the budget discussion in the Iowa Legislature.
A report from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency shows the state’s general fund took in $5.8 billion in the fiscal year that ended in July, $319.8 million or 5.8 percent more than in the previous fiscal year. And the Revenue Estimating Conference is projecting revenues of $5.97 billion, or 1.3 percent more than actual FY 2011 returns, even as legislative changes in how the cigarette and tobacco tax is collected means $196.5 million less coming into the general fund.
The REC painted a brighter picture for FY 2013, estimating revenues of $6.2 billion or 3.9 percent growth compared to the FY 2012 estimate.
“Regardless of budget projections, our goals remain the same: a two-year budget, fitting within the framework of a five-year budget projection, job-creating tax reductions, and a 15 percent reduction in the cost of government,” said Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht. “We made significant progress on these items in the last legislative session, and we will continue to work on this agenda until these goals are met.”
And Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) said “it’s obviously going to be another tough budget year.”
“I don’t see any way around that,” Paulsen said. “As far as changing the strategy, our strategy is we’ll continue to search through the budget, we’ll fund the things that are priorities for Iowans and some of those things of marginal or no benefit, we’ll look at eliminating them.”
Paulsen said while the REC has projected growth, he’s not sure it will cover projected commitments to education and tax credits.
“And nobody really knows right now what the federal government’s going to do,” he said. “Clearly they’re talking about some reductions there to the states. So we don’t know what’s going to happen there.”
But Democratic leaders think the budget numbers should change some of the rhetoric inside the Statehouse.
“I don’t think as a responsible community leaders over the last couple years people should have been talking about Iowa like the world was coming to an end,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls), president pro tempore of the Iowa Senate. “We were one of the few states that operated in the black. Because of the recession and natural disasters we obviously had a dip in revenues, but we made tough decisions in the reorganization effort in 2009.”
Iowa House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines) said revenue coming to the state has been slow and steady for the past year or so, and he wouldn’t trade Iowa’s position with any other non-oil-producing state.
But McCarthy’s not sure the news will change the focus for majority House Republicans, saying they’ve shown they’re willing to cut healthcare, preschool and other government services.
“I don’t know it changes the dynamic because the push by Republicans, they knew the budget situation and they were willing to spend the money but a lot of it’s going to corporate tax cuts,” he said. “They’ve kind of been a one trick pony on that issue. They wake up every morning and think ‘how can we help corporations?’ and that’s not how we think.”
Both McCarthy and Danielson said they’d like to see money go back into education, human services, public safety and tax cuts for small businesses. But both are also concerned partisan rhetoric could get in the way of that.
“If it becomes all partisan politics then we probably shouldn’t expect too much, and that would be a shame,” Danielson said.