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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 21, 2014

Spending tracked by Iowa Vote Tally

By Jennifer L. Crull | Aug 30, 2012

Iowa Vote Tally is a modified version of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s Vote Tally. The purpose of Iowa Vote Tally is to let you know how many of your tax dollars your Legislators voted to spend. This looks at all appropriation bills and bills that have fiscal impact tied to them. This includes funds for both the General Fund and other funds. This does not include federal dollars or block grants. This year there were 13 appropriation bills that the Iowa House and Senate voted on. These bills amounted to over $7.2 billion.

This information is being brought to you in an effort to increase the transparency concerning government spending. As State Auditor Dave Vaudt pointed out in a July 9, 2012, press release, “The Fiscal Year 2011 adopted budget shifted nearly $700 million of General Fund costs, creating a huge spending gap for Fiscal Year 2012 when many of the one-time monies were no longer available. The Fiscal Year 2012 adopted budget reduced the reliance on one-time monies by $544 million, or 71%.” As our state continues to recover from the recession and now has the woes of the drought, it is important that funding at the state level is coming from ongoing streams of funding versus one-time funds that have gone away. This helps create stability within our budgeting process.

Vaudt also notes that there will be “considerable pressure on revenue and spending in Fiscal Year 2014 and beyond as a result of Federal actions. If the Federal tax code remains unchanged, Iowa will feel the impact of expired Federal income tax cuts and other scheduled policy changes, collectively referred to by the media as the ‘fiscal cliff.’” Even with these issues, we are better off than we were two years ago. As Vaudt points out, “The Final Action budget reflects a continued focus on long-term sustainability of services instead of only thinking about the next year.”

If you visit the www.IowaTransparency.org Website you will see the link to Iowa Vote Tally. Under the Iowa Vote Tally page, you are able to see individual reports for each Legislator. The individual reports show how the Legislators voted and what the fiscal impact of the bill is. If a Legislator is absent or votes “No,” the spending is recorded as zero; otherwise, the spending, or the cost of the bill, is assigned to the Legislator. The individual reports show the legislation that the Legislator voted on. The legislation that the Legislators were absent for is left off the report. Take the time to check out your State Senator and State Representative and see if their voting habits are what you want in Des Moines.

As we head to the general election on November 6, it is important to remember that whoever wins the elections must continue to work on issues of funding Medicaid, salary and benefits, and IPERS. These are some of the hard decisions to face when the 85thSession of the Iowa Legislature convenes next January. The Website shows how your State Senator and State Representative voted concerning the spending of your taxpayer dollars. This year’s budget amounts are the total funding amounts for each appropriation bill, which means they include the dollar amounts approved last year under the new two-year budget process, as well as the additional funding approved this year.

 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author Jennifer L. Crull, IT specialist with the Public Interest Institute of Mount Pleasant, and not necessarily those of the Public Interest Institute.

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