Unlike most states, Iowa begins 2013 with a budget surplus
By Greg Janetka
DES MOINES, Iowa: As 2013 sessions get underway across the country, most state legislators will be facing the difficult prospect of a budget deficit which must be resolved. Standing out from the crowd is Iowa, where severe cost cutting and healthy tax revenues have led to a nearly $1 billion surplus. However, that doesn't necessarily make the political process of creating a budget any easier.
"I think the budget is always a challenge whether it's a tight budget or a flush budget," explained Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D). The sentiment was echoed by Dave Roederer, top budget aide to Gov. Terry Branstad (R), as he simply stated, "It's no prettier."
As always, the budget process comes down to conflicting interests. Branstad unveiled his $6 billion budget plan yesterday, which focuses on investment in education and cutting commercial property taxes. The governor laid out a $187 million plan to invest in K-12 education over the next five years, including increasing starting salaries for teachers and tuition assistance for aspiring teachers. The plan would be funded with the budget surplus.
Other Republicans, meanwhile, are looking to spend most of the surplus on tax cuts. Prior to the governor releasing his proposal, Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen said, "House Republicans, Republicans in general, we believe it's your money. We believe it's Iowans' money."