Iowa General Assembly Spending Data for 2013

by Jennifer L. Crull

This is the sixth year in which Public Interest Institute has updated the citizens of Iowa about Iowa Vote Tally. Iowa Vote Tally is a modified version of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s Vote Tally. The purpose of Iowa Vote Tally is to let you know how Legislators voted to spend your tax dollars. This looks at all appropriation bills and bills that have fiscal impact tied to them. This includes funds from the General Fund. This does not include federal dollars or block grants. This year there were nine appropriation bills that the Iowa House and Senate voted on. These bills amounted to over $3.5 billion.

This information is being brought to you in an effort to increase the transparency concerning government spending. State Auditor Mary Mosiman said, “The poor budgeting practice of shifting ongoing General Fund costs to one-time or limited-time monies has been severely curtailed. The Fiscal Year 2014 adopted budget reduces the reliance on one-time monies to just $36 million – a huge improvement over past years.”[1] As our state continues to recover from the recession it is important that funding at the state level is coming from ongoing streams of funding versus one-time funds that will go away. This helps create stability within our budgeting process.

Unfortunately, Auditor Mosiman did point out:

While there is a lot to commend about this budget, we continue to take steps back in terms of transparency-related shifts, or shifting ongoing General Fund costs to other ongoing revenue sources. This budget increases shifts that impact transparency by $129 million, which will distort comparisons with previous years. Transparent budgets are a key goal of following sound budgeting practices, and we can do better.[2]

The tables included in this publication show how your State Senator and State Representative voted concerning the spending of your taxpayer dollars. This session of the Iowa House and Senate had to deal with various issues, such as reforming education, property tax reform, and mental health funding to name just a few. The session started out with a lot a bickering, but finally both sides got together and managed to pass legislation that was the best for the taxpayers of Iowa. Next year our elected officials are going to have to tackle the monumental task of fixing Iowa’s pension system.

Auditor Mosiman’s press release about the Iowa pension systems stated, “Iowa’s pension systems have seen their unfunded actuarial liability grow in the past several years.” Mosiman added:

Our State’s largest pension plan, IPERS, is only 80% funded according to the most current information available, versus 98% funded in 2000. The State’s other pension plans are funded at even lower levels. The State needs to address the sustainability of pensions to ensure commitments to public servants are honored while being fair to the taxpayers.[3]

If you visit the www.IowaTransparency.org Website you will see the link to Iowa Vote Tally. On the Iowa Vote Tally page, you are able to see individual reports for each Legislator. The individual reports show how the Legislators vote and what the fiscal impact of each bill is. If a Legislator is absent or votes “No,” the spending is recorded as zero; otherwise, the spending, or the cost of the bill, is assigned to the Legislator. The individual reports show the legislation that the Legislator voted on. The legislation that the Legislators were absent for is left off the report. Take the time to check out your State Senator and State Representative and see if their voting habits are what you want in Des Moines.

Endnotes
[1] “State Auditor Mosiman Reviews Final Action Fiscal Year 2014 Budget,” Office of Auditor of State, August 5, 2013, <http://auditor.iowa.gov/press/Briefing_08-05-2013.pdf > accessed on August 9, 2013.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

IOWA TRANSPARENCY NEWSLETTER is a monthly newsletter reporting on government transparency in our state.

IOWA TRANSPARENCY NEWSLETTER is published by Public Interest Institute at Iowa Wesleyan College, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, research and educational institute whose activities are supported by contributions from private individuals, corporations, companies, and foundations. The Institute does not accept government grants.

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