In the first funnel of the session, a bill must have passed through committee in either the House or the Senate to stay alive this year. The funnel does not apply to appropriation or taxation bills. The funnel has made for non-stop dawn to dusk sub-committee and committee meetings this week. Having been in committee almost constantly since the beginning of last week, I know that I have missed some of my local people that have come to Des Moines to talk about various issues. That is the most enjoyable part of this job for me, and I deeply regret that I haven't been available to everyone who has traveled to Des Moines to discuss issues. Because it is funnel week, this column will be a little bit about a lot of things.
I have received many e-mails and voice messages this week about SILO. SILO is immune from the funnel because it is a tax bill, but it is still receiving a lot of attention. Amendments in committee may remove the portion that increases the use tax on new and used vehicles. There is also talk of putting a sunset in the bill that would require the Legislature to revisit the tax at some point in the future. When SILO was first passed, the people were promised the opportunity to evaluate the outcome and make the decision whether to renew or not. I will not support a bill that breaks that promise. SILO is currently a successful program, and I don't believe that changes are warranted.
On Tuesday morning, House Minority Leader Rants employed a parliamentary maneuver to try to impart some movement to the Iowa Marriage Amendment. House leadership has refused to hold a sub-committee meeting or consider it in committee. The motion to pull the Marriage Amendment from committee and consider it on the floor was defeated on a straight party-line vote. I feel that it is very unfortunate that just a few people in the leadership here are standing in the way of letting the people of Iowa determine the status of marriage in the State of Iowa.
We may be within six weeks of adjournment of the 82nd General Assembly and the majority party in the, Legislature has rejected major portions of the Governor's budget, but is still refusing to release their proposed budget for 2009. Many of the Appropriation Committees have finished their work and have been disbanded. We, as the minority party, were asked to approve departmental budgets on a piecemeal basis with absolutely no indication as to what is the total size of the budget, how over one-half of that budget is allocated, or where the money to fund the budget will come from. Needless to say, all Republicans voted no en masse in all of the budget committees and will continue to do so as those appropriations come to the floor. Until such time as the Democrats reveal the contents of their budget and we can make a reasoned assessment as to whether their tax and spending plans meet the goals and objectives of the State, we will resist all spending bills.
As we anticipate spending $6.4 billion in 2009, a $1.2 billion or 21% increase in two years, it is interesting to note what we have not spent our funds on. There will be no property tax relief; in fact, property taxes will increase nearly $80 million due to allowable growth for our school districts. We will not allocate $5 million for Iowa State University to begin odor mitigation research that could alleviate the conflict raging in Iowa over one of the largest industries in the state, which is livestock. Next year we will spend $5 million less on Veteran's programs than any year in the last five, even though we have relegated the Veteran's Trust Fund to relying on income from lottery games instead of an appropriation from the general fund. There will be no new money for roads unless we raise the registration fees on pickups. Finally, we have no money available to upgrade our maximum security prison unless we issue interest only bonds and obligate our grandchildren to pay them off.
A record high budget, absolute record high state income, and we still must increase taxes and expand gambling to fund some of our basic needs. There is something terribly wrong with this picture. Maybe that is why the majority will not let us see their budget for 2009.
Congratulations to several area communities on their reception of Community Development Block Grants, Albert City for housing improvements, Sac City for housing and sewer improvements, Sioux Rapids for housing improvements and Storm Lake for the construction of a new community health center.