Sunday, August 31, 2008

News From Iowa House GOP Leader Chris Rants

What's REALLY Going On With Your Tax Dollars?

For months we’ve been hearing from the governor and Democrats that a special session is urgent—we MUST come to Des Moines and address the needs of the storm victims and we must do it FAST, before the winter weather takes holds.

Now we’re hearing the complete opposite…maybe we don’t need a special session at all!

Since the flooding, the Executive Council has been meeting—allocating money at will for these emergencies.

The Iowa Code gives the Executive Council broad authority to act when the Legislature is not in session. The Executive Council consists of Governor Culver, Secretary of State Mauro, State Auditor David Vaudt, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

Under the Iowa Code, the Executive Council has the ability to tap a "standing unlimited appropriation" from funds otherwise not appropriated to pay for emergency expenditures. Funds not otherwise appropriated means money available in the general fund ending balance. Approval of the expenditure of funds requires a simple majority vote of the Council.

While it is a good public policy to have the Executive Council approve emergency spending and therefore limit the need for a special session, it is also necessary for the taxpayers to know how much is being spent, what it is being spent on and if the money is coming from the ending balance, how much unobligated money is left.

Particularly distressing is news that as on Monday, the Executive Council approved $99.8 million in expenditures for flood relief. We have asked for a breakdown of the expenditures but at this point, our requests have not been answered.

However, we have been made aware that $3 million has been spent on consultants, Witt and Associates and State Public Policy Group (SPPG). Witt and Associates were hired to "cut through the red tape of the federal bureaucracy" and SPPG was hired to facilitate Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission meetings.

These expenditures bring up several important questions:

1) What is this money being spent on when we don't even know how much the federal government is going to come up with? Allegedly Speaker Pelosi has promised our congressional delegation another supplemental disaster funding bill before the end of September.

2) What is the current ending balance of the general fund - both for FY 08 and FY 09?

3) What programs are going to have to be cut to allow for these expenditures?

4) What if revenue does not meet the REC estimate? Will across-the-board cuts follow?

5) Why does the state need to hire a consultant to "cut through the red tape"? Isn't that the job of our Senators and congressional delegation?

6) And most importantly, how would $3 million have helped flood victims if they had received the money instead of it going to high-priced consultants?

House Republicans are calling on the governor to release ALL of the figures regarding approved expenditures by the Executive Council. Iowans deserve to know how the 2008 disasters are going to be paid for before taxes are raised. We don’t want it to be a surprised come tax season.