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Posted: April 18, 2014

This week in the House we continued our work moving the state budget through the process. We passed the Administration and Regulation (funds state government), Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (funds infrastructure projects throughout the state), and the Education budget bills to the Senate.

The Education budget bill, which passed with bipartisan support, contains funding for Iowa’s community colleges, state universities, and the Iowa Tuition Grant, amongst other things. Additionally, it included the funding necessary to freeze tuition for in-state students at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa.

The Board of Regents has requested $19.2 million for a tuition freeze. The bill increased funding at all three state universities; $4.5 million in additional money for the University of Iowa, $7 million more for Iowa State University and $7.7 million more for the University of Northern Iowa. The reason UNI has the largest appropriation is to address the disparity in funding. Currently, UNI receives $7,676 per student. ISU receives $8,765 and UI receives $13,126.

The work our state universities and community colleges do to educate Iowa students is second to none. As the cost of college continues to rise, a tuition freeze goes a long way to ensure Iowa’s students can afford to go to college without incurring debt.

Senate File 2347 also included:
$8 million funding increase for Iowa’s community colleges
$1.4 million increase to the Iowa Tuition Grant
$850,000 increase for Vocational Rehabilitation
Increases for: state libraries, private school families through textbook assistance, students making a positive life decision in Iowa Jobs for America’s Grads (iJAG), preschool students in early head start programs, and Iowa Public Television

April 13th was Tax Freedom Day in Iowa. This is the day when Iowans have finally earned enough money to pay off their total tax bill for the year (including federal, state and local taxes). In my opinion, this is just sad. Iowans work way too hard to continue giving so much of their hard-earned paycheck to the government. I will continue to work to send more money back to your pocket. For more information about Tax Freedom Day or to see how Iowa measures up to other states, visit http://www.iowahouserepublicans.com/happy-tax-freedom-day-iowa-2

As always, if you have any questions or concerns please contact me at my office at (515) 281-3521 or by email at kraig.paulsen@legis.iowa.gov

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Posted: March 14, 2014

As I mentioned last week, House Republicans and Senate Democrats reached agreement on an overall general fund budget plan. Next year’s general fund budget will spend $6.9718 billion.

That represents 99.84% of on-going state revenue, staying true to the House GOP’s common sense principle of spending less than the state collects. This number also represents just 91.14% of the allowed amount under the state’s expenditure limitation law.

As a reminder this will be the fourth consecutive year the state will spend less than it collects. This is in stark contrast to the four years immediately preceding House Republican leadership in the Iowa House. From 2007 through 2010, Democrats spent more than the state collected in each of those years.

The agreement complies with House Republicans four budgeting principles:
We will spend less than the state collects;
We will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs;
We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs; and
We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.

As part of the effort to not underfund our previously made obligations, House Republicans’ plan follows through on our commitments to offer $414 million in tax relief to Iowans.

This plan fully-funds the property tax credits including the homestead, elderly and disabled, military and agland tax credits. It also fully-funds the commercial property tax credit which was passed last year as part of the largest tax cut in Iowa history. We also continue to send money to the Taxpayer Trust Fund which is a direct payment back to Iowa taxpayers on their income tax returns.

House Republicans will continue to work to find ways to take less money from Iowa taxpayers and return more to their pockets all while following through on the budget promises we’ve already made.

Last week Best Buddies Iowa and Special Olympics Iowa joined together at the State Capitol for “Spread the Word to End the Word” Day. These young Iowans encouraged legislators, staff and visitors to sign their pledge to stop using the R-word in everyday language as it is hurtful, exclusive and derogatory. I was happy to once again sign their pledge and meet with the students in my office.

Charity, Angela and Tyler are pictured here with me in my office with their signed pledge. Best Buddies Iowa and Special Olympics Iowa are examples of organizations in our state that do a great job of serving our young people.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call my office at (515) 281-3521 or email me at kraig.paulsen@legis.iowa.gov

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Posted: February 28, 2014

This week in the House spent our time debating bills that had previously survived the legislative funnel. Most of the bills we considered passed the House in a bipartisan manner and were sent over to the Senate for their consideration.

One significant bill passed this week was House File 2253 which toughens penalties for those convicted of crimes against children, specifically kidnapping. This bill was generated after last summer’s kidnapping of Kathlynn Shepard and Desi Hughes which resulted in the murder of Shepard, who was 15.

The bill makes the crime of kidnapping a child 15 or under a class B felony and lengthens prison time for those who are convicted of this crime. In the Shepard case, the murderer was a convicted child kidnapper who was freed due to good behavior. Had this bill been in effect at the time of this incident, the kidnapper would have remained in prison and not been free to commit these heinous crimes.

I believe keeping Iowa’s children safe from harm is one of the most fundamental things we do at the capitol. While I am deeply saddened by the loss of Kathlynn Shepard and the trauma suffered by Desi Hughes, I am hopeful this measure will prevent this horrific situation from ever happening again.

The bill passed the House 94 votes to 3 votes.

Another bill we took up was House File 2275 which will prevent fraud, misrepresentation and inadequate documentation in the Medicaid process. This bill sets the stage to save Iowa taxpayers upwards of $16 million by preventing this fraud. It will also increase efficiency by reducing approval time from weeks to 48 hours or less.

This bill passed the House 86 votes to 12 votes.

Both of these bills now head to the Senate where I hope they will get a fair hearing.

As we continue to move through the session, we will continue to work on bills that are a priority for Iowans and will move the state forward.

You can watch an update I deliver to the press this week here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFDuXf91Ge0

As always, feel free to contact me on these bills or any others at my office at (515) 281-3521 or by email at kraig.paulsen@legis.iowa.gov

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Posted: January 28, 2014

This week Iowans across the state gathered together with their neighbors to participate in the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Iowans take great pride in the caucuses and are the best qualified to vet presidential candidates, but also set party policies and weigh in on state candidates.

I had the privilege of speaking at the Linn County caucuses. It was an organizational success and the enthusiasm shown by Republicans in an off-year caucus was remarkable.

As we returned to work, the budget process got underway in the House. The governor presented his budget last week and unlike his predecessor, Governor Branstad has again provided the Legislature with his budget proposal on the second day of the legislative session.

The Governor’s budget proposal is a good first step in the appropriations process, and House Republicans are once again committed to conducting a line-by-line review to ensure that taxpayers’ dollars are wisely spent.

As we continue our review and discussion of the budget, we will continue to make sure each proposal meets House Republicans’ budgeting principles of:
• Not spending more money than the state takes in,
• Not using one-time money to pay for on-going expenses,
• Not intentionally underfunding entitlement programs to balance the state’s budget,
• And returning unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers;

Our state will continue to be prepared for whatever lies ahead.

As we have seen in the past, it only takes one undisciplined budget to destroy the progress that has been made. We must not retreat from our principles.

Please join Sen. Mathis and I this weekend for our forums – 9am at the Hiawatha Public Library and 10:30am at the Marion City Hall chambers. I look forward to talking with you in person and getting your input on this session.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns by contacting my office at (515) 282-3521 or at kraig.paulsen@legis.iowa.gov

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Posted: January 13, 2014

Below is Speaker Paulsen’s opening day remarks:

I’m happy to welcome you all to the second session of the 85th General Assembly.

I don’t know about what your experiences during the interim were, but I have never been thanked for the legislature’s work as much as I have been this last eight months. To be clear I don’t think all of a sudden we were smarter or harder working, I think it was that the 150 members of the general assembly and Governor Branstad decided to have what ended up being an exceptional focus on Iowans and advancing public policy that advanced our state.

And while we may have been rigid in maintaining our principles, we were flexible and committed to finding resolution within them. The product ended up being something that all Iowans could be proud of.

This commitment to the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa is what we should have again this year, so that when we walk out of this building after the final adjournment for 2014 we can once again say we put Iowans first, moved the state forward, and that the state of Iowa is better for us having been here.

I trust that you are ready to do that, and to have an efficient session – I expect this will not be a year in which we burn daylight.

Some say that since this is an election year both parties will retreat to their respective corners, lob partisan bills back and forth all while taking jabs at each other in the press. That particular strategy has been going on in Washington, D.C. for quite some time and I think we all can agree that it has proven to be a pathway to ineffective government, and simply put, an absolute disaster at times.

Instead of concentrating on political tensions and campaigns, let’s find common ground. Instead of imposing policies that pit one group of Iowans against another, let’s work on behalf of all Iowans. Instead of focusing exclusively on our differences, let’s focus on what is achievable. Iowans expect this of us and we should expect nothing less of ourselves.

House Republicans will spend time and energy on bipartisan efforts to effectively manage the state budget and create certainty for Iowa families and Iowa employers.

House Republicans have set the tone on the state budget. Gone are the days of spending more than the state takes in while borrowing even more money. While states around us struggle to make their budgets work or are strangled by debt, we have created a fiscally strong and stable Iowa. This is not a coincidence. It is only possible because we have fiercely stuck to these core principles:
• Do not spend more money than the state takes in.
• Do not use one-time money to pay for on-going expenses.
• Do not intentionally underfund entitlement programs to balance the state’s budget.
• Return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.

Three years ago, Iowa faced a $900 million budget shortfall. As the 2014 session begins, Iowa is spending just 88% of what our outdated expenditure limitation law allows, our budget reserves remain full and the ending balance is projected to be $928 million. Finally, House Republicans led the way on debt reduction by using a portion of the ending balance to pay off $114 million in bond debt earlier than required.

As we make decisions this year, we must recognize we still face challenging budget times and we must not endanger these accomplishments.

Opportunities to do more are before us.

As a parent, there’s a principle that I’ve tried to instill in my children– a simple idea in regards to the resources they have. Save some, spend some and give some back. With that in mind, we should continue to focus on spending less than we collect, paying off past debts and commitments, and sending the rest back to the hardworking taxpayers who sent the state their money in the first place.

We also have an opportunity to create certainty for Iowans. Those who create jobs and employ our friends and neighbors and the folks who fill those jobs with an honest day’s work deserve to know they can count on stability from their state government.

With the constant overreach, intrusion and insecurity made by the federal government, we need to be especially aware of the challenges facing Iowa employers and workers and lessen the burdens we ask them to shoulder at the state level.

We must continue to send the message across the country that Iowa is a great place to do business and House Republicans believe this is a great time to look at our income tax code and find opportunities to leave more money in the pockets of all Iowans.

Working hand in hand with employers, we must continue to advance policies that encourage investment in our state and workforce, and make sure our regulatory environment is not burdensome. Additionally, we need the education opportunities for Iowans to ensure they can get the training they need to take advantage of these jobs.

Last year, through the skilled worker initiative we invested significant resources in job opportunities and growth designed to cultivate future economic health for hardworking Iowans. This year we will continue our collaboration with community colleges on workforce training and job creation.

Iowa needs more people trained for the jobs that employers need to fill. Many of those jobs do not require a four-year degree. Iowa employers need skilled workers like: welders, computer techs, nurses, and many others. We need to continue the investments that train Iowans for these jobs and we need a bipartisan commitment to encourage Iowans to pursue these fields.

Too often, political rhetoric in this building focuses on the extremes. Today, I instead choose to put a stronger focus on the middle. Those Iowans who “play by the rules” – have a job, a few kids, a house or a car – who want to be left alone to raise their families and enjoy their communities. How can we make their lives easier?

Are we offering them relief from the squeeze of federal, state and local taxes? Are we looking for ways to make it easier for them to send their kids to college? Are we removing barricades that stop them from improving their own financial health? House Republicans are focused on tearing down obstacles for these Iowans.

We will once again look for ways to freeze tuition at the state universities to make college affordable for Iowa families. Across the country institutions are routinely raising tuition on students, putting a quality four year education out of reach for many. The work that our Regents institutions are doing with us to hold this line is important. And while we look forward to seeing the results of their efficiency strategies and studies, we also challenge them to find the greatest amount of savings possible – going through their budgets line by line, just as we have done here at the statehouse.

On behalf of the hard working taxpayers of Iowa we look forward to seeing the various proposals from Governor Branstad and the Iowa Senate. We look forward to working through the challenges in front of us in order to move the state of Iowa ahead.

If we stay focused on prudent management of their tax dollars, assisting in growing Iowa’s economy and opportunities, and also making sure Iowans have access to the training they need to advance themselves and their families we will have another productive year.

Every year in my opening day speech I offer a gentle reminder that the desks we sit in belong to the 30,000 Iowans we each represent back home. The people who send us here expect us to do our jobs, just like they do every day.

Every vote you take, I hope you’ll think of the small business owner who struggles to keep their doors open, but without whom there would be no town square. I hope you will consider the farmer who feeds the world every day. I hope you will imagine the folks in the middle, the parents who play by the rules and don’t ask for anything except a level playing field.

These hardworking Iowans all have the same hopes and concerns. They look at their checkbooks and worry about paying the bills, about their children’s future and about making ends meet. These seats are theirs and every day we sit in them we should be focused on how to unite in their best interests.

Now — let’s get to work.

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