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First steps for Branstad and the Iowa Legislature

BY GUEST OPINION | NOVEMBER 12, 2010 7:20 AM

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When Terry Branstad left office, he had a Republican House and Senate. He did not fix welfare, education, our prisons, our courts, taxes, or our economy. While he managed the status quo much better than Gov. Chet Culver — thanks to dozens of tax hikes and data manipulations — Branstad and the GOP did not repair, restore, or rebuild Iowa.

Now that he and Republicans have returned to power, simply invoking a term such as "conservative" isn't good enough. This group of leaders must lead, but to lead, they first must have a plan. This means not just an agenda but a specific vision of how we fix Iowa.

So what are the first steps the Branstad administration and the new GOP leadership ought to take to fix Iowa?

1) Institute a four-year flexible freeze, capping spending at the current level and refusing to increase the budget more than current levels.

2) Resist simple and irresponsible remedies, such as not filling current vacancies. While Culver's across-the-board cuts were reckless, simply not filling the positions he cut is equally reckless.

Instead a department-by-department, division-by-division, bureau-by-bureau, program-by-program examination of state government must take place.

3) End the practice of spending 99 percent of estimated revenues and move to zero-based budgeting. Fund what we are supposed to do — keep courts open, public safety, etc. — and veto every nonessential expenditure, from Planned Parenthood to church projects. Private — not public — dollars should fund such things.

4) Institute a bounty program rewarding state workers that help us save money by giving them a bonus — 5 or 10 percent of what they save us. This works in the private sector and in the military; it would mobilize those best aware of waste to help us reduce, if not eliminate, it.

5) Reorganize state government, reducing it to fewer than 10 bureaucracies in the governor's line of authority. For example the state Board of Regents and K-12, College Student Aid Commission, and Department of Cultural Affairs should all be under one roof, sharing one administrative team.

6) Fix the board and commission structure. Iowans in 99 counties deserve to be represented. Also, broadcast every board and commission meeting live over the Internet.

7) Institute real reform at Department of Human Services, beginning with welfare reform by requiring work and personal responsibility.

8) Institute real reform of our justice system and courts, including ending the notion that building prisons is economic development, and restoring work details.

9) Begin the systematic elimination of the 12,000-plus useless bureaucratic positions in public education, from K-12 through regents, that drain taxpayer dollars.

10) Present a bold and comprehensive agenda to address the scourge of illegal immigration within our borders. The effect on our economy, state resources, and communities is devastating.

Throughout the campaign, lip service was paid. Now is the time for action to take place.

11) Allow parents to decide who educates their children and let the money follow.

12) Allow real academic competition to exist by allowing independent academies to be formed.

13) Introduce a comprehensive plan to phase out corporate taxation; institute real property-tax protection for all Iowans, not just select corporate allies; reduce the sales tax; and phase out the individual income tax.

There are many other reforms that ought to take place. This is a start, however. These are things that can be done right away by the new leadership and would prove they are committed to true small government with free-market principles — not just interested in power and control.

Jonathan Narcisse was the Iowa Party candidate for governor in this year's election.


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