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Branstad’s budget a good start

By Staff | Feb 11, 2011

Unfortunately, we live in a time when the words many politicians utter during campaigns are too often forgotten when voters put them in office. Consequently, it’s important to pay close attention not only to what officeholders say, but also to whether fine-sounding rhetoric is accompanied by action that is consistent with the promises.

Citizens who want to understand what a governor really stands for should examine carefully the budget proposals sent to the Legislature. Those documents make clear in terms of dollars and cents just what is deemed to be of high priority – and what is not.

On Jan. 27, Gov. Terry Branstad outlined for the Legislature his budgetary plans for the next two fiscal years. The message was both sobering and reassuring.

The governor’s detailed, realistic proposals made clear that he won’t use budgetary tricks as the substitute for facing harsh financial realities.

“When I began the preparation of this budget, I was handed a list of dozens of programs – 89 to be exact – that had been funded with money we no longer had. Everything from paying for teachers to state troopers had been funded with one-time money – nearly 900 million dollars’ worth,” Branstad said. “I understand that this budget method of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul didn’t just happen overnight. I understand that it has been building over at least 10 years. But that doesn’t make it right; and that doesn’t mean we can ignore it for another decade.”

The governor had a stern message for lawmakers about the past mismanagement of the state’s finances.

“If we don’t fix it, the very integrity of our government is threatened,” he said. “It is our responsibility, as servant-leaders, to pass a budget as honest, frugal and balanced as the people it serves.”

A key part of Branstad’s game plan is putting Iowa on a pay-as-you-go approach to governance. He called upon the Legislature to cut from the state’s budget much of the spending that was funded by one-time monies that are no longer available. These cuts amount to a huge $770 million. No one pretends they will be easy to accept or popular. Sadly, they are needed if Iowa is to avoid a red-ink hemorrhage and restore budgetary sanity.

Also included in Branstad’s budget are changes in tax policies that will help stimulate business growth. Unless the economy expands, the current economic doldrums will continue. Making Iowa a more attractive venue for businesses of all sizes is the goal. That’s why the governor is advocating reductions in the income taxes businesses pay. He is also committed to eliminating or modifying rules and regulations that have proved burdensome to businesses while providing little benefit to the public. These changes will make Iowa more attractive for investment and produce much-needed jobs.

Some of the proposals Branstad outlined in his budget message will be unpleasant. They will be resisted by defenders of assorted interest groups. What should be reassuring, however, is that the governor is determined to face the state’s problems honestly, without regard to short-term political advantage.

Farm News urges lawmakers to show similar resolve. At a critical time in Iowa’s history, they should commit themselves to work harmoniously with Branstad to solve the state’s financial problems.

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