Republican legislators intend to dip into special state savings accounts to come up with more money for their spending plans for next year. Republicans want to use 160 million that’s in the state’s cash reserve and another 132 million from the senior living trust fund to ensure more spending for key areas like education and public safety. Republicans have often criticized the idea of dipping into rainy day savings accounts, but not this year. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a republican from Sioux City, says it’s a better idea than democrat Governor Tom Vilsack’s idea of raising taxes.Rants says he doesn’t understand why they’d ask Iowans to pay more in taxes when they have 160 million dollars sitting in a bank account that could be spent instead. Rants says Vilsack has said repeatedly that he’s willing to listen to someone who came up with a better way than a tax hike to fund state government priorities, and Rants says “this is a better way” than raising taxes and he hopes the governor does not reject it out of hand. Senator Jeff Angelo, a republican from Creston, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Angelo says “working Iowans can breathe a sigh of relief” because the G-O-P budget plan does not call for raising taxes. Republican Representative Bill Dix of Shell Rock is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Dix says republicans are “saying the family checkbook is every bit as important as the government checkbook,” and lawmakers “can still fund these priorities without raising taxes.” Dix, long a critic of “raiding” state savings accounts to pay on-going expenses, says there’s a “unique set of circumstances” this year. Dix says there are significant areas of state government and local schools “that require additional resources.” Governor Tom Vilsack, a democrat, has advocated tax increases instead, and he’s critical of the idea of dipping into state savings accounts. Vilsack says dipping into the state savings accounts has become a pattern and will have an impact on the state’s bond rating. Republicans like Angelo fired back saying it’s ironic that Vilsack now opposes spending the money in the state savings account since that’s what Vilsack has proposed himself in past years. Senate President Jeff Lamberti, a republican from Ankeny, is even more incredulous.Lamberti says raising taxes would have a “far more damaging impact” on the state’s bond rating. The state borrows money to pay short-term expenses, and the bond rating affects the interest rate charged on that short-term borrowing. Vilsack also says republicans aren’t providing enough money for the state’s schools, one of the reasons he often cites as the primary reason for raising taxes. Vilsack says Iowans are very concerned about the pending layoffs in Iowa schools. But Angelo says republican legislators are sending Vilsack a message that they’re unwilling to raise taxes. Angelo says the governor “wants to try to keep beating the drum for tax increases” but Angelo says a tax increase would choke off Iowa’s economic recovery. And Angelo says republican lawmakers are providing just as much general state aid for K-through-12 public schools as Vilsack proposed.
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