Week fifteen of the session is done, one week to go in the official calendar. We have voted on over 200 bills on the floor of the House. Work on Appropriations bills dominated the past week; the House ran six on the floor in one day. Nearly all of them will end up in a conference committee made up of members from both chambers and both parties. Given the slow progress on the bills already in conference committee, I don't believe we will adjourn next week.
The Senate has not yet responded on the Education Reform compromise offered by the House nearly two weeks ago. Time is running short for our schools; they need to make staffing decisions for the upcoming year. With our proposal, the governor and the House Republicans have demonstrated our commitment to both implementing education reforms that will help improve our schools performance, and to providing our schools with adequate funding. Hopefully the Senate will respond soon. If not, our schools and our kids will have to make do with the same funding level as last year, and without the needed reforms to improve performance.
Sticking to Principles
Each of the appropriations bills that have come over from the Senate has had one common characteristic. Not only do they spend far higher than the House budget targets, but they surpass the Senate's own budget targets. Early in the Session the House and Senate set their budget targets for fiscal year 2014. The House target was $6.4139 billion, spending 98 cents for every dollar of revenue. The Senate target was $6.9 billion, spending $1.05 for every dollar of revenue. This was $487 million more than the House Republican target. The House target represents a 3% increase in spending over Fiscal Year 2013. The Senate target represents an 11% increase in spending over Fiscal Year 2013.
At last count, the Senate had sent over appropriations bills that spend $47 million more than their own target of $6.9 billion, raising their spending to an 11.6% increase in General Fund spending. However, this count doesn't include the Standings bill, which hasn't been sent over yet.
Iowa has averaged revenue growth of 3.4 percent over the last 20 years. Clearly the House spending plan reflects a more sustainable and responsible approach to our state budget. The House will stick to our budgeting principles that we laid out at the start of the session:
* Republican budgets do not spend more money than the state takes in;
* Republican budgets do not use one-time money to pay for on-going expenses;
* Republican budgets do not intentionally underfund entitlement programs to balance the state's budget;
* Republican budgets will return unused tax dollars to Iowa's taxpayers.
Memorial Day weekend I am planning on joining Governor Branstad and a few of my colleagues from the legislature at a ceremony to re-dedicate the Iowa State Civil War Memorial at the Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The memorial is in honor of the many Iowa Civil War soldiers that fought and died in the Union Siege of Vicksburg. The Iowa State Monument was dedicated on November 15, 1906 and construction was completed in 1912. Iowa also built thirteen smaller monuments and other bronze plagues in the park. In 2012 the Iowa Legislature appropriated $320,000 for preservation and restoration of the Iowa Civil War Memorial in Vicksburg so that future generations will be reminded of the sacrifices made by Iowans in that struggle.Vicksburg Monument
From Governor Branstad's invitation: "Over 30,000 Iowa soldiers participated in the Siege of Vicksburg in 1862 and 1863, which was a key turning point in the Civil War for operational control of the Mississippi River. The significance of the Siege is underscored in the following quote from President Abraham Lincoln: 'See what a lot of land these fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket...We can take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can defy us from Vicksburg.'"
Several of my relatives from Tama County participated in the Siege of Vicksburg as part of the 10th Iowa Infantry, including my great-great grandfather Robert Filloon who survived the war, his brother A. J. Filloon who was wounded and later died and is buried at Vicksburg, and my great grandfather Fisher's brother John (Jasper) Fisher, who survived Vicksburg but died later in the war. As I prepare for the trip I hope to identify other Tama and Marshall County residents that may be buried at Vicksburg so that I can visit their graves and honor their sacrifice. I will be travelling at my own expense, enjoying the opportunity to represent my state as well as pursue my interest in genealogy, history, and travel.