The newly-appointed chairman of the Iowa House Appropriations Committee says he’ll be saying “no” a lot. Representative Scott Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale, was appointed chairman of the budget-drafting panel a few weeks ago. Raecker says there is a windfall of unexpected state tax revenue.
While there’s about two-hundred million dollars in additional revenue available, Raecker says it’s a “misnomer to think” lawmakers have “new” money at their disposal. That’s because of a huge list of “built-in expenses” lawmakers promised in past years. The 2005 Iowa Legislature promised 100-million more dollars to the state’s public schools. The state will have to spend 50-million more dollars on Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor. And the negotiated pay increases for state employees calls for an additional 83 million dollars in 2006.
“Those three items alone take us over $330 million dollars of new expenses that have already been committed,” Raecker says. “We have our challenges in front of us but I firmly believe we can pass a balanced budget.” To get to that balanced budget, Raecker admits he’ll have to say “no” to a lot of spending proposals.
The top Republican leader in the Iowa House is saying “no” to raising the tax on cigarettes despite Governor Tom Vilsack’s repeated request for a hike in the state tax on a pack of cigarettes. Raecker says he’ll build a state budget plan that does not include a higher state tax on tobacco products. “My job as Appropriations chair is to going to be to try and make that budget work,” Raecker says.