At the start of session, Appropriations Chairman Pat Grassley assigned me the task of leading the new House Ad Hoc Budget Review Subcommittee. Our first task was to review the programs in the Standing Appropriations Budget, which make up approximately 50% of Iowa’s $7.3 billion budget. With the exception of K-12 funding, these programs received little to no legislative oversight despite the fact that they were automatically renewed every year. Knowing we needed to do a better job of ensuring good stewardship of taxpayer dollars, our bipartisan subcommittee reviewed every expenditure in the Standings budget, bringing in department leaders over the course of nine different committee meetings to answer questions and justify their budgets.

Our meetings produced a number of important discoveries. Encouragingly, many programs, such as the Child Abuse Prevention program, had well-defined objectives, concrete measures of performance, and good return on taxpayer investment. Other programs were completely obsolete, and some had significant areas for improvement. Surprisingly, approximately $500 million worth of tax credits and property tax backfill programs received no formal legislative oversight at all.

At the conclusion of our analysis, we reported significant reforms to House leadership. These reforms were included in negotiations with the Senate and I’m proud to announce that most have been agreed to and will be adopted in this year’s budget. We will move 11 programs valued at a total of $15 million from the shadows of automatic standings renewals to the respective budget subcommittees, where they will be subject to annual review and oversight.  We will eliminate the interstate extradition and non-resident transfer programs, both seldom-used and obsolete.  Finally, and most significantly from a monetary standpoint, we will assign six tax-related appropriations valued at $500 million to the Tax Expenditure Committee for periodic review.

With the agreement on joint budget targets between the House and Senate this past week, we are well on our way to finishing up the session soon. Encouragingly, the agreement to spend $7.349 billion ensures we’ll be spending less than we take in. Half of that budget will include Standings, which for the first time in memory, will consist of programs appropriately reviewed and adjusted to reflect the realities of this year’s budget. Finally, those programs which we’re bringing out of Standings will undergo annual review and oversight. The taxpayers of Iowa should take encouragement that we’re striving to be better stewards of their hard-earned tax dollars. I’m honored to be a part of it.

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