SUNDAY TALK: Upmeyer on Common-Sense Budgeting

Who else is sick of all this snow?  It seems like as soon as we get the roads and streets cleared off, the next round of snow is only a few hours away!  Thank you to all of the hard-working snow plow drivers and DOT crew members who keep our roads free of snow and safe for travel.  We appreciate all of your hard work!

I also want to congratulate all of the individual wrestlers who competed at the State Tournament and the Clear Lake wrestling team for their third place finish.  What a great accomplishment!

One of the most important things that the Legislature is tasked with each year is the development of a state budget.  Our budget directs resources to many different functions of government, including large portions of K-12 schools, community colleges, Regent universities, Medicaid, prisons, and the Iowa State Patrol, among other things.  It is our responsibility to take the resources that hard-working taxpayers provide and divide it between the various departments and agencies  in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.

This week, the House announced a framework for the FY20 budget year (July 2019-June 2020) which allows us to meet our obligations, invest in our priorities, limit spending, and respect the hard-working taxpayers of Iowa.

The House has recommended a $7.668 billion budget for FY20, which is very close to Governor Reynolds’ proposed budget.  Our budget plan is $48 million higher than the adjusted FY19 budget, representing an increase of 0.63%.  The outline accounts for fluctuations in revenue, by only spending 97.45% of ongoing revenue, fills all of the state’s reserve accounts to their required levels, and leaves a healthy $298 million surplus at the end of the year.

This is a responsible and conservative budget proposal.

This budget plan puts additional resources into priorities that Iowans value like education, career training, health care, public safety, and initiatives to revitalize rural Iowa.

Budget subcommittees have already begun their work to develop the details of the FY20 budget.  They are in the process of reviewing their budgets, identifying priorities, and recommending funding levels for individual line items in their specific budget area.

It is important to remember that it wasn’t that long ago (2009-10) that our state budget faced a $1 billion structural deficit, reserve accounts were raided without a plan to pay them back, and programs were underfunded and then cut by 10% (namely K-12 schools).

Today, our budget is in good shape and it is largely because of the thoughtful planning and strong budget management that we have championed for over the last several years.  In years that revenue came in as expected, we funded core government functions, made strategic investments in Iowa’s future, and  returned tax dollars to Iowans when needs were fulfilled.  In lean years, we controlled growth, made tough decisions, and protected key investments – like K-12 education – from harmful cuts.

Due to this hard work and fiscal discipline, we have a balanced budget and full reserves.  We are investing in schools and other key priorities at historic levels and reducing taxes on hard-working, middle class families.

With targets in hand, I expect thorough discussions on the budget over the coming weeks!

With session underway, please feel free to reach out and share your thoughts on legislation or let me know if you need assistance dealing with a state agency or department.  I can be reached by email at Linda.Upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or by phone at (515) 281-3521.