Since I don’t currently have the time I need to follow the work of the Iowa General Assembly as closely as I’d like, it helps me to read these updates from Peter.Â This week, I’m surprised to learn that the Democrats are anxious to bring back the “Fair Share” concept that they tried to force down Iowan’s throats last year.
It isn’t bad enough that we have to struggle to ensure that spending is under control and that we don’t depend on the Federal Government to meet our fiscal needs, but do we really have to start sucking up to the unions yet again by taxing non-union members to pay for the junkets of corrupt union leaders?
Mind you, if union members really want to throw their money away by paying union dues that cost them more than they get (and I mean costing in terms of lost opportunities, meager strike funds and ridiculous concessions that just bankrupt the companies they work for), that’s their business.Â But dragging their co-workers into paying for the same obsolete concept is larceny.
Call your representative and stop this madness!
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Meanwhile the budget battle goes on.Â Evidently, the message continues to be finding ways to keep the spending flowing despite any sense of thoughfulness.Â Granted, I think we can live on a lot lessÂ spending even when the economy is good… and if we worked with that mindset, it wouldn’t be so hard for us right now because we’d already have budget, the government, the horse trough, all under control.Â It’s too bad we don’t do enough to hold the politicians accountable.
But you can.Â Call them.Â And start planning for the 2010 elections.
You can view Peter’s newsletter here.
Peter poses some great positive ideas for improving the current economic state of affairs in Iowa, with particular and appropriate emphasis on our need to reduce state government spending:
These cuts should be a positive thing for the taxpayers of Iowa. Like any business that goes thru [sic] hard times, the cutting of excess can make government leaner and more efficient in the long run.
This should be a message spread throughout the States’ and Federal Legislatures: part of our problem has always been too much government spending, too much bloating in the government, too big a trough for elected officials to feed on and build electoric favoratism to ensure a nice long career as a politician.
Although I haven’t had time to peruse the budget that Governor Culver has placed in front of the General Assembly yet, I appreciate the fact that he has gone a long way to cutting the fat out of Iowa Government.Â However, since we are still a ways from seeing a balanced budget, there is more to do.Â The Entitlements need more thoughtful review.Â I hope to have some thoughts on the content of the budget next week.Â Meanwhile, if you’re interested,Â you can read the budget here.
And the convoluted attempts to raise money through shenanigans such as leasing or selling the Lottery cannot be allowed to move forward.Â Emily Geiger at Battleground Iowa had a great analysis of the current state of the politics around this issue Thursday.
At any rate, we don’t get a lot of time to do the lawmaking here in Iowa.Â We need to all pay attention as our Legislators and Governor are making decisions that may impact us for a while.Â Keep in mind that even though we have a Balanced Budget law in Iowa, the politicians are still adept at manipulating the numbers to convince us they’ve done as much even though they have not.
And get in contact with your Statehouse Representative and Senator.Â They are there for you.
Peter Cownie was elected to the Iowa State House (District 60) this past November and enters his freshman year.Â I think that Peter’s insights into this year’s General Assembly work will be valuable, and will be posting his newsletter here.
First, the following text was included in the email with his first newsletter:
SOLVE PROBLEMS IN A BIPARTISAN MANNER
The inauguration of President Barack Obama this past week was a historic moment for the United States. Not only is President Obama the first African-American to become President of the United States, but he is probably inheriting more problems than any other President in recent history. However, I believe this to be a time of optimism forÂ Americans and Iowans alike. The most important thing I took from President Obamaâ€™sÂ inaugural address is his increased emphasis on personal responsibility. This is referring toÂ personal responsibility for all citizens in their daily lives. We should not wait for the government or anyone else to solve our problems. President Obamaâ€™s tone and rhetoric are sadly not struck upon enough in American politics and society.
President Obama is surely one of the greatest speakers to ever ascend to the White House. It will take all of his powers of oratory as well as salesmanship to be a successful president. President Obama inherits two wars, a recession, a massive federal deficit, and nearly every state in the Union looking for a bailout to deal with its own budget problems. Iowa is no different in this regard. The Statehouse seems to be â€œwaiting by the phoneâ€ to see how much money we will get. Frankly, I do not see this as the job of your elected officials to sit and wait for the feds to bail the state out. You elected us to solve problems.
I intend to follow one of President Obamaâ€™s guidelines and work in a bipartisan manner to solve Iowaâ€™s problems. Too often the peopleâ€™s government gets bogged down in petty differences and party politics. There will obviously be differences during this session and it will be the minority partyâ€™s job to highlight those differences. However, I think the people of Iowa will be better served if the Legislature spent more time finding common ground amongst ourselves rather than worry about the next election cycle. Instead, we should be focusing on helping the people that are still displaced from the floods of this past summer and working to cut waste from our state budget. Hopefully next week I will be able to report some progress on these fronts.
In closing, Iowa lost one of its finer public servants this past week. State Senator Mary Lundby of Marion passed away after a long battle with cancer. Senator Lundby was a tireless worker for her state and district as well as one of the most effective legislators to serve at the Statehouse. On a personal note, Senator Lundby hired me a few years ago to work for the Senate Republican Caucus staff. I credit Senator Lundby with my start in public service. Thank you, Senator Lundby. You will be missed.
Peter’s newsletter requires Adobe Acrobat Reader (download here).Â The newsletter is at this link.
Monday January 12 will be the opening session of the 2009 General Assembly.Â This year’s session timetable is here.Â As was the case the pass two years, both the House and the Senate have Democratic majorities.
We urge you, as the session progresses, to take the time to communicate with your elected representatives.Â Go to this link, and find your representative’s name, click on it, and you’ll get phone numbers, email addresses, information about committee assignments and links to bill sponsorships.Â I will be in contact with Peter Cownie and Pat Ward, the House and Senate members who represent me here in West Des Moines.
I exchanged emails with Peter last week.Â This is his freshman years in the Statehouse, and he managed to get assigned to Appropriations, Economic Growth, Educatio nand Labor committees, and on Appropriations, he is the ranking member of the Economic Development subcommittee.Â He told me that this year is pretty much all about the Budget.
Which leads me to Friday Night’s Iowa Press on IPTV.Â Senator Mike Gronstal (D-Senate Majority Leader from Council Bluffs) and Representative Pat Murphy (D-Speaker of the House from Dubuque) were grilled by Dean Borg (the host), David Yepsen from the Des Moines Register, and Mike Glover from the Associated Press.
The message from Gronstal and Murphy was the same one that Peter heard… it’s about the budget.Â We’ve already seen Governor Culver make two swipes at state spending to try and get the budget aligned with expected revenues.Â Gronstal started responding to the budget question from Glover by saying that committees will be working hard on cutting expenses, and then proceeded to hit the first shortsighted decision which is the canceling of plans for a new state office building.Â Gronstal said: “we need a new state office building, Wallace needs to be replaced but not today.”Â On the one hand, if we don’t have the money, we don’t have the money… but on the other hand the cost of the new building, which “we need” will jump up every year we wait.Â On the third hand, we could reduce the size of government and eliminate the need for the Wallace Building altogether, but that’s not likely to happen.Â This is one project that needs more careful review in my opinion.
As they discussed ideas such as leasing the Lottery (an idea that’s been floated around lately) and allowing open positions in government to stay vacant, it became clear that Gronstal wasn’t quite prepared to express a confident opinion about anything yet… he said he wasn’t going to reject any idea until looking at the details.Â Glover asked about what has been at the heart of the Lottery question for decades, which is the possibility that leasing it to private interests could quickly lead to expanded gambling in Iowa (as if any more expansion is going to really matter any longer), which Gronstal rejected out of hand.Â Yepsen went on the offensive, asking about campaign contributions from gambling interests, and Gronstal didn’t like it:
Yepsen: The gambling industry makes campaign contributions to state legislators. How much does that have to do with this decision? If the gambling industry wants to buy the lottery from you and you’re getting thousands of dollars in campaign donations doesn’t it get sold?
Gronstal: No, David, I don’t think that’s true at all. Look, I think it’s an interesting idea, it’s one worth considering. If we go through that process we very well may decide, no, it doesn’t make sense. But why reject the idea of considering it? I think that’s fairly silly to reject even considering an idea. I’m actually really surprised at your critical questions. The legislature has often advocated considering privatization.
Yepsen: We always ask critical questions, Senator.
Gronstal: But the idea of privatization shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.
Yepson then took the opportunity to jump to a question that should be bugging all of us: AFSCME, the state workers union, is asking for a 5% pay raise for workers next year, and another 5% the year after that.Â While people in the private sector are losing their jobs, not getting raises even close to 5%, and the key question of how every state worker makes 30% more than the average citizen.Â Gronstal made one smart-mouthed response about CEOs (that was just inappropriate), and then said he wouldn’t comment on it because of the fact that the state is actively engaged in negotiations, and it’s the Governor’s job, not the General Assembly.Â Yepsen kept the heat up, Murphy tried defending the salaries by talking about what some of the state workers do (covering maybe 5% of those workers… don’t get me wrong, I want police and fire protection paid well, but we’re talking about a lot of overpaid workers).
Bottom line on the union is that we won’t get any serious discussion about this from Democratic leaders because they’ll lick the union bosses’ shoes just to ensure they continue to have votes in 2010.Â And we’ll be left holding the check.
There was a good conversation about the use of the state’s Rainy Day Fund and the general Cash Reserve.Â It was good to hear that the leaders would consider usnig the RDF if necessary to ensure Iowans that are struggling from the weather and economic disasters of 2008 are helped appropriately… I agree that the Cash Reserve should be left alone as that is needed to ensure that we don’t need to borrow money if revenue shortfalls start to impact cash flows.
Also good conversation around the numerous proposals for local option sales taxes and the possibility of introducing flexibility for local governments to collect fees to offset property taxes.Â Gronstal actually said something I can strongly agree with: property taxes are too high.Â The trouble is, some fees are just another property tax, so I’m not exactly keen on that.Â Local option sales taxes are fine, and all the state is doing is allowing the local governments to decide to impose them… the state doesn’t pay or benefit from that EXCEPT that the pressure on the state to help out is reduced.
They also discussed the proposal to raise the gas tax by a nickel to help create jobs and improve the existing transportation infrastructure.Â I’m a bit torn… I like the fact that it helps keep people employed, but I hope we don’t end up wasting money on unnecessary projects.
They also hit on teacher pay, and corrections facility needs.Â The most revealing statement of the evening came next, however.Â Yepsen asked if Gay Marriage would be debated this year.Â Both politicians flatly said “No.”, with Murphy adding that they were going to “let the courts make that decision”.Â It shouldn’t amaze me that these guys are clearly incapable of true leadership, but I suppose when you know you lack both a credible position and will lose power if you do the right thing, having the Iowa Supreme Court there to bail you out is certainly a reasonable option.
Gronstal ended by saying this year is about the Budget and Disaster Recovery.Â I wonder whether we’ll ever recover from the 2009 session?
Today the Republican Party of Iowa finally ended one of the more unusual elections for party officers in recent memory, which included last week’s candidate forum.Â The new slate of officers are:
- Party Chair: Matt Strawn
- Party Co-chair: Jim Kurtenbach
- Party Treasurer: Matt Randall
- Party Secretary: Bill Schickel
Strawn is a 35-year-old businessman and co-owner of the Iowa Barnstormers Arena Football Team.Â Strawn’s focus in his campaign has been on better use of technology, communication and encouraging participation by younger Iowans in the political process.
After listening to Polk County GOP Chairman Ted Sporer (for the first time in a couple of months, by the way) on Steve Deace’s show Friday afternoon, I suspect that one of the first things Matt will need to do is get with some of the more vocal party activists and leaders such as Ted and try to bring some consistency into the party’s message.Â Ted was pretty vocal that he didn’t think Matt or any of the other candidates would provide adequate leadership for the party in Iowa (although I don’t recall seeing Ted at the candidate forum, so I wonder what the basis is for his opinion on this).
The fact is, Ted has an opinion on what party priorities should be, as does Gopal Krishna, and Matt Strawn and Danny Carroll, and Deace, and many others.Â We need internal party dialogue and a common message or we will continue to appear to be, as well as actually be, splintered.Â While WHO Radio and public blogs are a great place to have public discourse about public policy and issues facing Americans and Iowas, they are not an effective way to solve internal party issues.
More at IowaPolitics, RadioIowa, and Krusty.