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The Kapucian Korner

February 9, 2010
By State Sen. Tim Kapucian (R-Keystone)
Another week goes by and we travel through this year’s legislative session at a hurried pace. The shortened session has added a sense of urgency to the activities surrounding the Capitol. We run from committee meeting to committee meeting, then to sub-committee meetings. Many of the committee meetings have reports from department heads who are rushed through because we may have one or two more presenters to hear from in our allotted block of time. Debate sometimes doesn’t start until 5:00. Even the receptions hosted by the different groups and associations are squeezed into a shorter period of time. We may have two or three different organizations at the capitol for breakfast in the morning, another group may sponsor pork or beef burgers at lunch and then two or three more receptions at night.

While I trust and depend on the lobbyists hired by the different interest groups, nothing has more of an impact than face to face interaction with working Iowans directly affected by the decisions we make here in Des Moines.

One of the biggest bills of this legislative session rolled through the Senate this week. The government reorganization bill passed in an effort to streamline government in Iowa and eliminate inefficiencies. The bill is meant to save the state money during these tough economic times, but the real savings is still questionable.

Several amendments to the massive 290 page bill were offered in an effort to make it stronger. All of these cost-saving, common sense amendments, like sun setting government funded programs every four years in an effort to examine them for inefficiencies were unfortunately voted down.

This bill was largely based on the report presented by the taxpayer funded consultant that the Governor’s office hired.

I truly believe that genuine government reorganization can only happen when the spending mindset in Des Moines changes. Last year we offered 300 million dollars in taxpayer savings including the suggestion of eliminating all phantom state employees.

Our goal is and will continue to be to dramatically and systemically reform government and save the taxpayers more of their hard earned money. With the belief that real government re-organization begins with the understanding that we must end the culture of reckless spending that has permeated state government the last three years, here is just a sampling of the common sense amendments and solutions that we presented during debate.

We want to force a two-thirds vote on the passage of all bonding bills in the Legislature. In the past few years, it’s been the bond spending that has increased our deepening financial hole. Had this rule been in place, Governor Culver’s unpopular temporary make-work program would not have been enacted. This idea alone, had it been in place last year, would have saved taxpayers $1.7 billion dollars. We put forward a proposal that the Legislature pass a Constitutional Amendment that limits state spending to no more than 99 percent of revenues. To us, it’s just common sense not to have the state spend more than it takes in.

We also put forward ideas that would get public employee wages in line with the private sector and require those employees to share in the cost of their health insurance, thereby building a stronger partnership between government and our public employees. We also think it is past time to end the practice of taxpayer funded lobbyists.

In an era where so many decisions seem to happen behind closed doors and there is a deficit of accountability and transparency, we proposed solutions that would give taxpayers new benchmarks so they are more aware of what their government is doing. Just one example would be to have the State auditor create measurements that oversee the reorganization process.

However, the House of Representatives has yet to begin full debate on their bill and it is likely that they will eventually pass something that is different from the Senate. Our counterparts in the House have already indicated they plan to offer an additional $290 million in savings, though it is unclear whether the House majority party will accept their plans or vote them down in partisan fashion. Before any bill makes it to the governor’s desk, identical bills will have to pass both chambers so there is much yet to be decided.

Though some aspects of the bill are a positive step forward, we believe we should continue to strive for fundamental, systemic reforms. We will continue to offer our ideas in hopes of improving the bill when it comes back for debate in the Senate. This opportunity still presents a wonderful chance to not only reorganize but also reduce government and as always, we welcome the common sense ideas and suggestions from all Iowans.

As always, I welcome your questions and comments. Thank you for letting me represent you at the capitol.

Please feel free to contact me: tim.kapucian@legis.state.ia.us or 515 281-3371.



Sen.. Tim Kapucian represents all or portions of Tama, Grundy, Benton and Iowa counites.

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