Guest Columnists

Nine questions about the budget Iowans should ask

People walk down a staircase at the State Capitol Building in Des Moines. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
People walk down a staircase at the State Capitol Building in Des Moines. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

In my four terms as a legislator, I have made it a priority to establish a working relationship with Republican colleagues.

I am writing with the taxpayer in mind though, in order to point out significant problems with the way our state budget is managed. Iowans should view the state’s economic health with concern, if not alarm, regardless of your political leanings. To illustrate the point, consider these questions:

• Is it fiscally sound to draw the state cash balance so low we can’t pay income tax returns to working people on time?

• Is it fiscally sound to borrow $130 million from the state’s cash reserves at a time when the economy is steady with 3 percent unemployment?

• Is it fiscally sound to make Iowa a low wage state so more taxpayers rely on government subsidies even while working full time?

• Is it fiscally sound to approve tax cuts without knowing how much they will actually cost?

• Is it fiscally sound to hold harmless corporate tax cuts that haven’t grown the state’s economy, while at the same time cutting public safety services and vital support to victims of domestic violence?

• Is it fiscally sound to hold harmless tax credits that have doubled in cost to the taxpayer over the past few years, while the companies that receive them pay no tax to the state in return?


• Is it fiscally sound to subsidize companies that would do business in Iowa regardless, and not require support as a startup?

• Is it fiscally sound to continue outdated tax breaks at the same time college tuition is increasing due to lacking state funds?

• Is it fiscally sound to allow tax credits to private companies to outpace growth in every other area of the budget, automatically and without legislative approval?

As we face the potential for a special legislative session to correct errors, the answer to these questions is clearly no.

Democrats don’t always get it right and neither do Republicans. But when either party is given the opportunity to govern, it comes with the obligation to own success and failure alike. It’s time for the GOP and Gov. Kim Reynolds to own this failed experiment. The GOP is managing a credit card budget and spending cash reserves with no regard for the fact that they must be paid back. Working families are paying more in local property taxes as a result.

The people of Iowa deserve to see more honesty and leadership. Governing for and by the people requires someone to ask the hard questions. It demands that those governing expect more of each other. Will the GOP ask these hard questions or will they borrow more

Government can’t say yes to every request it receives. But when approving tax breaks and other dollar requests, it should at least ask whether we can afford it. It’s time to restore fiscal discipline to the state budget, and to embrace economics that make sense for the average family and taxpayer.

• Chris Hall serves District 13 in the Iowa House and is ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee



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