DES MOINES, IA. -- Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn (R-Boone) today offered closing remarks on the second session of the 84th Iowa General Assembly. His remarks are as follows:
Colleagues, friends, family and all Iowans:
On the first day of this session, now many weeks ago, I started my opening day speech with a famous Winston Churchill quote that goes as follows, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.”
I asked all of us to have the courage to put aside our differences and work in a spirit of true bi-partisanship on the enormous challenges that face our great state. I asked us to provide the measurable results that the hardworking Iowa taxpayers deserve.
I said we must listen not only to what our colleagues have to say - but most especially to those 60,000 bosses that are back home in each of our districts, counting on us to always do what is right for their families, neighborhoods, communities and schools.
Did we provide the measurable results that Iowa taxpayers deserve this session?
In most cases, we did not.
When it comes to job creation, property tax relief, world-class education and government rule and regulation reform, this Legislature failed to make the necessary strides that hardworking Iowans deserved.
As Senate Republicans, we maintained a laser-like focus on job creation and career development this session, but it is disappointing that our colleagues across the aisle opted against a full debate on all of the issues that would lead to more job and career development in our great state.
This should not have been the session to say “No” to good job creation ideas like authentic, aggressive and permanent property tax relief or comprehensive rule and regulatory reform, just because they were ideas that originated from the other side of the aisle.
Instead, Iowans were treated to more of the same. Over the past few years, this has become a pattern that we cannot afford to continue to repeat in the years ahead.
So what did we accomplish?
We did pass a state budget for the upcoming year – and thankfully it was done much earlier than last session.
However, this new budget continues to spend far too much and we missed an opportunity to put into place more government reforms and efficiencies that would lead to systemic change and long-term savings.
As we look to the future, Senate Republicans pledge that we will continue to stand by sound budgeting principles like not spending more than we take in and not raising taxes in order to balance the budget. Just as hardworking Iowa taxpayers tighten their belts, so too should government.
We must continue to wean ourselves off the practice of using one-time dollars for ongoing expenses and continue to provide transparency and accountability. Our budgeting decisions should not just be about this year – we must think about the next decade and the next generation.
The reason I ran for the Senate is because of my four children and now my five grandchildren. I want them to be able to grow up in Iowa - in safe communities with good schools and as they get older - be able to find good jobs and build rewarding careers right here if they so choose.
That is why it is such a tragedy that we missed a golden opportunity to fully revamp and upgrade our property tax system.
The Iowa House, time after time, passed aggressive, authentic and permanent property tax relief with broad bi-partisan support. They should be commended. This body should be disappointed.
So now we have work to do in the future, because Senate Republicans know we cannot afford to have property tax rates that rival that of downtown New York City. A property tax system, like the one offered by Senate Democrats this year, that simply shifts around the tax burden, picks winners and losers, relies on state revenue triggers and onerous applications will not work and is not acceptable.
This Senate Democrat plan proved to be so unappealing that even their own Democrat members could not stomach it.
Since property tax relief did not happen this session, next year Senate Republicans look forward to working closely with Governor Branstad, our colleagues in the House of Representatives and those Senate Democrats willing to be guided by something other than the party line to make it happen.
We will provide genuine, aggressive and permanent property tax relief to hardworking Iowa taxpayers.
Along with property tax reform and responsible budgeting comes removing some of the barriers to growth by getting a handle on our increasingly burdensome government rules and regulations.
Last session, Senate Republicans spearheaded an effort to go across the state to hear directly from Iowans about how government red tape is holding back their success. We then put together a series of ten proposals aimed at re-opening Iowa for business.
In nearly all cases this session, our colleagues across the aisle missed ample opportunities to make it easier for more Iowans to realize their dreams and pursue their ambitions.
Instead of allowing a fair hearing and a rigorous debate on the merits of these common sense proposals, Senate Democrats mostly turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the job creators, entrepreneurs and small business owners across this state who have been ardently clamoring for some common sense and for some relief.
We also failed to muster the courage to tackle challenges that exist in education. While one education reform bill will go to the governor’s desk, it is a far cry from what is truly needed. We could and should have done more for our children – the future of our state.
Education should be about preparing our students to achieve success and be productive citizens. Senate Republicans believe education should be about achievement and teaching our children the necessary skills they need to successfully compete in the global marketplace.
As such, let’s get back to setting high standards and expectations for our students and challenge them to reach their fullest potential. We believe students will rise to the challenge if we provide them with world-class standards, ambitious benchmarks and a rigorous curriculum grounded in the fundamentals of reading, writing, math, science, history and civics.
Like property tax relief, rule and regulatory reform and finding more ways to make government more efficient and effective, true education reform will apparently have to wait until next year.
This Senate also missed opportunities to shield Iowans from nearly all aspects of Obamacare, failed to increase our base load energy supply, failed to take major steps to protect life and failed to give Iowans a vote on the very basic definition of marriage.
In the cause of promoting freedom, liberty and opportunity, we could and should have done more.
So clearly, there are significant challenges awaiting next year’s Legislature.
The 85th General Assembly will have its hands full because the 84th failed to act in so many ways.
This November is likely to provide this body a lot of new Senators and with that a lot of new energy and new ideas.
We should welcome that.
Because this state’s greatest asset is our people and the work they do for their communities, schools, churches and most importantly – each other.
Their independence, self-reliance, honesty, resilience, work ethic, volunteerism and concern and care for others serves as an inspiration.
We have incredible, hardworking people in all 947 communities doing extraordinary things to renew the promise that exists in all 99 counties. These Iowans just want to make a good living and raise their families, and they deserve a government that respects, appreciates and encourages them to do so.
It is a blessing that this is a part-time citizen Legislature as it keeps our public servants closer to “We The People”.
Mr. President, before I conclude, I wish to again say farewell to eight of our retiring citizen-legislators. To my good friends Senators McKinley, Kettering, Seymour and Bacon and to Senators Hancock, Rielly, Fraise and Kibbie, I wish you continued good health and many years of happiness.
I also want to thank all of the clerks, mail room workers, phone message takers, doormen and clerks. Thank you to our hardworking and dedicated Senate Republican Caucus staff: John, Kirsten, Tom, Josh, Pam, Jim, Gannon, Eric and Russ and our interns Matt and Josh. I wish to also thank my tireless staff – Nicole and Don and Marce for their continued hard work.
Thank you as well to Secretary Marshall’s staff, the LSA staff and all the other great folks who make this place function.
Mr. President, in closing, I just want to again reiterate how honored I am to represent my central Iowa constituents and to serve as the Senate Republican Leader.
I can say with the utmost assurance that in my 16 years here, this is the most talented caucus I have ever been a part of and we have had some great ones. We truly have an entrepreneurial caucus of individuals – many of whom are current or former employers with the expertise, knowledge and experience needed make Iowa the envy of the world.
So as we all depart today, may you all go back home to your districts and enjoy your families.
Please continue to celebrate what makes this state so special and unique.
I wish there was more we had done this year, but I pray that next year’s legislature will have the courage to do what this year’s didn’t.
Thank you very much, may God bless our great state and may God bless America.