When the legislative session began earlier this year, Senate Republicans had several goals to advance the state of Iowa. One of the biggest priorities on the agenda was improving the skills of the Iowa workforce to help fill job openings open all across our state. We also wanted to continue enacting policies to make it easier to do business in Iowa, reward work and investment, and bring in more people to our great state.
At the start of the year, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, we had more jobs open in our state than unemployed people to fill them. Rolling back burdensome regulations and enabling Iowans to keep more of what they earned produced the results Iowans sent us to achieve. In addition to historic tax reform, K-12 education in Iowa was supplied with sustainable and reliable funding. Conservative budgets met the needs of Iowans, while still limiting spending growth.
A global pandemic quickly upended much of that success. The coronavirus has been crippling for the state and for the country. Restaurants, shops, and stores have had to close. Farmers have had to deal with low commodity prices, a backlog of livestock, and some have been forced to euthanize animals. Our state is experiencing record unemployment, with hundreds of thousands of Iowans losing their jobs due to COVID-19. For everyone who calls our state home, their everyday life has been changed by the pandemic.
With Iowans experiencing so much financial disruption in their lives, they expect the government they fund with their tax dollars to tighten its belt. It would be irresponsible for state government to grow significantly, while families across the state are cutting spending amid job losses or a cut in pay.
Many times we have said we came to the Capitol to ensure taxpayer dollars were being spent wisely. Those words ring even more true as we face a much different budget situation than a few months ago. After passing conservative budgets over the last several years, we are in a better and stronger budget situation than many other states. Since 2017 we have gone from having millions in a budget deficit to millions in a budget surplus. Since our focus was to create sustainable budgets, it allowed us to build a surplus for moments just like the one we are facing now.
Now it is even more crucial to look at where taxpayer dollars are being spent and decide if it is indeed in the best interest of Iowans and will help them on our road to recovery. Iowans can depend on a stable state budget with no tax increases but likely with some spending reductions.
On the first day of this year’s legislative session, I encouraged my colleagues to find solutions for the problems our state faces. While recovery for our state may take months or even years, we can start right now by implementing pro-growth policies and budgets move this state forward and help every Iowan succeed.