Ragan Report

A commitment to good Iowa government

    

     In Iowa, we have one of the best state governments in the country. Republican and Democratic legislators are always looking for ways to ensure government runs efficiently and offers good service to Iowans. 

     Those efforts have made Iowa one of the top three best run states, according to 24/7 Wall Street. Our high ranking is a result of our strong agricultural economy, low unemployment, perfect credit rating and strong budget.

     Each year, we balance the state budget without raising taxes and set aside money for a rainy day. Iowa is expected to have a budget surplus of about $881 million when this fiscal year ends on June 30. We also have $650 million in our rainy day funds, the largest amount in state history. State Auditor Mary Mosiman has touted the largely strong fiscal condition of our state.

     Under Iowa law, the Legislature never spends more than 99 percent of what it takes in. We use a cautious approach to determining how much to spend by looking at the recent revenue estimates of a nonpartisan panel of experts, then budgeting according to the more conservative estimate.

     Each year, at least one percent of the state budget goes into savings accounts, which include a cash reserve fund and an economic emergency fund. This is the money that gets us by in hard times, such as an economic recession or a natural disaster.

     Not only do we budget responsibly, it is easy for Iowans to see how their tax dollars are spent. Iowa was one of only eight states to receive an “A” grade from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in their 2014 Follow the Moneyreport, which grades states on spending transparency.

     Iowa's easy-to-use State Transparency Website allows citizens, experts and watchdog groups to find information on a variety of expenditures. The site at http://data.iowa.govoffers datasets, charts, tables, maps and other resources on Iowa’s financial, tax and performance data. It even provides information on money recouped by the state when recipients fail to deliver the agreed-upon results, an accountability practice that sets us apart from most other states.

     If legislators do discover problems in state government, we address them. For example, when we learned that taxpayer money had been paid to former state employees in secret settlements, the Senate's Government Oversight Committee immediately began looking into the matter and continues to work this summer to find out what happened and how to prevent the problem in the future.

     As your state senator, I am here to listen, learn and work with you to make Iowa the best it can be. Please call or e-mail me if you have ideas for how state government can better serve Iowans.