The state’s budget situation got worse as the hours ticked by Tuesday. By day’s end, state officials pegged the red ink in the present year’s state budget at 219-million dollars. Next year’s budget plan, which starts July 1st, will have to be trimmed by about 200-million more. Grim-faced legislators like Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Dows had a private meeting with the Governor yesterday afternoon. He says they talked about the scope of the problem, which he says surprised everyone.House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City says policymakers got hit in the head with a 400-million dollar bat yesterday.Rants says there are no easy answers, and it’ll require wholesale elimination of some state programs because the red ink has gotten so deep. He says, “Every time I turn around today, it jumps, higher and higher.”Governor Tom Vilsack suggests tapping a variety of state accounts to cover the shortfall in the present year’s budget. He says, “We are prepared to meet this challenge. We are confident in Iowan’s ability to deal with these difficulties.” Vilsack says the state won succumb to the move that other states have made by raising taxes to meet the shortfall.Officials in 28 other states have or are considering tax increase.Vilsack and the rest of the nation’s governors yesterday started lobbying Congress and President Bush to boost federal spending on the Medicaid program. A one-percent increase in federal support would yield 45-million dollars for Iowa over the next 18 months. Sometime today, legislators will meet privately with the Governor to talk about their options, and perhaps decide when is the best time to schedule a “special session” to deal with the crisis.
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