ll of us are facing difficult challenges today, as citizens of Iowa and citizens of this nation.
Even before the tragedy of September 11, our
national economy was in a downturn. The events of that terrible day have accelerated our economic problems. Today, almost every state across the
nation is struggling with the consequences.
Here in Iowa, we are facing the smallest annual increase in state revenues that we have seen in 18 years. So Governor Vilsack and I have asked for
aggressive steps to keep our budget in balance, while continuing to provide the services that Iowans need and deserve.
There were some easy answers that we rejected, because they were the wrong
answers for Iowa - and for Iowans. In the past, when faced with revenue shortfalls, the state's response was to raise taxes. But that would simply
increase the burden on working families who are struggling in a weakened economy. Raising taxes in an economic downturn is the wrong way to go.
We could have cut state programs across the board. But that would have meant NOT making choices and pretending that every program and expenditure has equal worth. We know that's not true, as you do. It's simply not leadership
to refuse to set priorities or to avoid the hard choices that will keep our state on the right path.
Instead, Governor Vilsack and I made the difficult decision to cut our current year's budget by $108 million. This is necessary to keep our budget in balance. But it will have real consequences for many of our fellow Iowans. There is no question that this deep cut will mean the loss of some
Just as important as what we cut is what we chose not to cut. Some cuts we chose not to make would have threatened the security and future of children and families across our state. We refused to abandon the hard-won progress we've made in Iowa - progress that has helped thousands of Iowa families and made our state a better place to work and live.
We did not cut funding for elementary and secondary education, which is vital to the future success of individual children, and to the future
economy of our state. Over the past three years, we have reduced class sizes in the early grades and increased pay and training for our teachers, because we know that those measures will improve performance in the classroom.
We did not cut funding for Medicaid and other important health care programs, because all Iowans should have access to decent, affordable health
care. Over the past three years, we have tripled the number of Iowa children covered by health insurance, and we've turned hundreds of nursing home beds to assisted living centers for Iowa seniors.
We did not cut funding for state troopers, emergency management services or the Iowa National Guard, because today we are facing an unprecedented threat
to America's safety and security. Over the past three years, we have reduced the prevalence of methamphetamine labs in dozens of Iowa communities. As we face new and troubling threats to our security, these are programs and services we can't afford to cut.
In the weeks ahead, the Governor and I will be laying out our plans to reduce spending in next year's budget by an additional $200 million, to meet the challenges of the economic downturn and the security demands of a new
world. We will accomplish this goal by examining every facet of state government and improving its delivery of services to Iowa residents. In
these times of challenge and sacrifice, we simply must do more with less.
The Governor and I are confident that, by working together with the legislature and with Iowa citizens, we can meet the challenges of this new
day and this new world. We are confident that we can balance our budget without diminishing our priorities. We can continue to protect the important
progress we're making on behalf of Iowa's families and Iowa's future.
With your help, I am confident that Iowa's best days are yet to come.