Capitol Comments - Call It A Reality Check Print
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Written by Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck   
Monday, 31 January 2011 15:33

Think of the difficult cuts which are being made now as a stepping stone to setting Iowa on track to a solid fiscal future.  The Governor’s budget is not a step-by-step manual for eliminating a deficit but rather a starting point for discussion.  It is highly unlikely the budget Governor Brandstad presented on Thursday will be the same one he will sign at the end of the legislative session.

The legislature has three possible responses to our budget deficit: raise taxes, find efficiencies or cut nonessential programing.  This past week I have been asked by a number of special interest groups to increase the sales tax by half a percent because it is “no big deal” and “no one would notice.”  The sheer audacity of those making those statements is almost as scary as the actual concept of a tax increase right now.  I wonder if those who believe the state should just keep spending actually understand the pressure many Iowan’s feel right now.  Most people can’t fill up a tank of gas or buy a week’s worth of groceries for less than $50.  The long-term answer is not found in, “simply finding new revenue for the state.”

It is a wonder how some politicians can avoid recognizing structural deficits and continue to spend as if the problem will just go away.  I heard on many occasions that we have one billion dollars in unspent money so we can save programing.  This claim is correct, as long as you don’t recognized the $1.7 billion in programing you promised to fund with only the $1 billion you claim to have.  Apparently basic math doesn’t count when politically, you really want something.

For the last two weeks, each department has promoted their programing by saying, “for every dollar you spend with us, you will get seven in return.”   If true, with so much return on investment then why are we in debt?  When I ask this question I am quickly informed the state would be further in debt if we didn’t fund these programs originally.  By the rationale of this claim, the state would have been $32.6 billion in the hole if we weren’t “getting seven in return.”  At some point we have to turn on the reality switch.

In these meetings I think about the silent majority: A group which doesn’t belong to an association or have a paid lobbyist.  They are a group of Iowans willing to pay taxes with the expectation that those dollars are being used responsibly.  This group is willing to chip-in and help out but they don’t want to be used as simply a checking account.

As Iowa begins correcting its budget problem I am growing concerned of Congress’s willingness to negotiate plans for three states to declare bankruptcy.  Legislators in these states have offered no roadmap for improving their budgets.  Politicians either refuse to accept the reality of their budgets or spending has become an addiction to them.  Ultimately, taxpayers in states like Iowa will foot the bill for bailing out states with politicians who forgot there is a “no” button right next to the “yea” button.

Senator Shawn Hamerlinck

District 42

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