Sioux City Journal
When Iowa lawmakers begin crafting a new budget next year, they will be working from a position of growing state economic strength.
Consider these recent numbers:
— Unemployment fell from 5.5 percent in August to 5.2 percent in September, well below the national rate.
— State tax collections for the first quarter of this fiscal year were up 8.8 percent from one year ago. “It’s running as good as it gets,” Jeff Robinson of the Legislative Services Agency said last month of revenue growth.
— The Revenue Estimating Conference last month predicted tax receipts for this fiscal year will grow by $171.4 million over last year and by another $241.1 million in the next fiscal year. (The REC’s next revenue forecast will be issued in December and form the basis for the next state budget.)
— The state closed the fiscal 2012 ledger with a $688.1 million budget surplus, the LSA reported last month. This at a time when 31 states have forecast budget shortfalls for this fiscal year totaling $55 billion, according to the Washington, D.C., based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Any way you examine Iowa’s numbers, the picture is positive. Iowans should feel good about the fiscal condition of our state.
Still, we advise a continued conservative approach by the new General Assembly with respect to spending in Iowa’s budget.
First, lawmakers should embrace a healthy respect for unknowns, including the effects on the state of lingering drought and budget decisions in Washington.
Second, we believe most Iowans would prefer to see the Legislature reduce their tax burden than embark on a spending spree. To that end, we look forward to Gov. Terry Branstad’s two-year budget proposal, which he promises will include plans to “dramatically” cut personal and corporate income tax rates and lower property taxes. We believe steps like these will further fuel the fire of economic growth in our state.
Iowa is moving in the right direction. Our message to state legislators: Don’t veer off course.