Democrats in the legislature are proposing a spending outline for the next budgeting year that they say is more than $100 million less than the plan Democrat Governor Chet Culver unveiled in late January.
Representative Jo Oldson, a Democrat from Des Moines, is chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. "Iowans are all too aware of what the national financial recession is doing to their own pocketbooks and it doesn’t play out any differently for the state budget," Oldson says.
Democrats in the legislature propose an overall budget of more than six-billion dollars and they say while the governor pared many state agency budgets by about six-and-a-half percent, their plan cuts two percent below that in many areas.
Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "We’re trying to be as fiscally-responsible as we can. Everyone is suffering in this economy not only in Iowa but across the United States and state government’s no different," Dvorsky say, "so we’re tightening up our belts."
Democrats occupy a majority of seats in the legislature and therefore control the debate agenda in both the House and the Senate. House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha says today’s one-page list of general spending items from Democrats offers few details. "Just standing alone in that chart, they don’t mean a whole lot," Paulsen says.
Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton says he hasn’t been able to review the details either. "Sometimes cuts turn into increases when you study more closely," McKinley says. "We just don’t know yet."
Democrats say while they’ll use part of the federal stimulus money to ensure there aren’t cuts in the state-run Medicaid program, the rest of the stimulus money probably won’t be used to plug holes in the budget. Republicans say they’re skeptical and charge that Democrats will use much of the federal stimulus money to avoid making budget cuts.
Click on the audio link below to listen to today’s news conferences featuring Democratic legislative leaders and Republican legislative leaders.