The legislative session re-started this week, continuing the work from a couple months ago and with new challenges ahead. The legislative session looks much different than it did when we paused. Now, committee meetings are held in the Senate chamber instead of committee rooms to allow for social distancing, and speakers on bills will give comments from the Senate gallery instead of usually coming to the meeting tables. Our clerks that typically come in to help keep us on schedule and organized remain at home, ensuring a limited number of people in the Senate chamber and making sure we can work with distance in between each of our desks.
When the session was suspended, we still had several bills to get through a legislative deadline to be considered throughout the rest of the year. Now, we are taking that deadline and shortening it into a few days of work, while also debating bills on a wide range of issues.
Before we adjourned in March there was a lot unknown about how it would affect our state and how it would affect our budget. Recently, we received an updated estimate on how the coronavirus would affect our state’s budget. The estimate for our general fund revenue next year has decreased by $360 million.
For the past several years, we have been passing conservative, responsible, and sustainable budgets, working to rein in government spending and using taxpayer money efficiently and effectively. In 2017, one of the very first bills passed in the Senate was to reduce the money already appropriated because the state could not afford it. However, since then, we have gone from having millions of dollars in deficit, to millions of dollars in surplus, putting our state in a good position to face the budget situation ahead of us.
Now is not the time to abandon those principles. Much like Iowa families have had to cut spending because of the coronavirus, government should also be budgeting cautiously, look at where dollars are really needed, and ensure the most necessary functions of government are funded for the Iowans.
Throughout the last several weeks, even though we were not at the capitol, we continued our work to ensure when we did come back, we would be ready. While we work on a responsible budget we know the state can afford, we will also be working to make sure the priorities we have been working on since the first day of session make it to the governor’s desk for her signature. As always, if you have any questions or concerns on legislation we are discussing or have any questions about resources still available for those affected by the coronavirus, please feel free to contact me.