Republicans in the legislature have drafted a plan for the next state budgeting year that’s just one percent more than the current year.
By comparison, the spending outline Republican Governor Terry Branstad released in January called for a four percent increase and Democrats this afternoon have proposed an increase of about three percent. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, says the budget plan G.O.P. legislators have crafted will help grow the state’s economy.
“We have to send a signal to employers that we have our act together. We think this budget does that,” Paulsen says. “They are not going to have to be concerned about a looming tax increase or, worse still, what’s happened in Illinois.”
Illinois lawmakers raised taxes, but the state still has a huge budget deficit and billions more in unpaid bills. Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn of Boone stressed that the budget plan Republican lawmakers in Iowa are touting would leave over $190 million in surplus at the end of the year.
“We want to be sure that we’re leaving enough in the savings account to plan for the future,” Behn says. “Just because we may have some additional dollars in the ending balance doesn’t mean we automatically have to spend it.”
Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says the three percent increase Democrats propose includes more money for community colleges and the state-supported universities.
“Ours is actually more responsible because we actually fund programs that are necessary to keep the state going and keep the job growth going,” Dvorsky says.
Republicans decided against setting aside $25 million for state economic development grants, but Dvorsky points out that amount of spending was a “high priority” for Governor Branstad when he unveiled his plan in January.
“There’s been a grant program like that for years under various Republican and Democratic governors,” Dvorsky says, “and we need to fund that at a certain level.”
Again this year GOP lawmakers are suggesting every one of the 45,000 state employees who have health care insurance as a benefit pay $200 per month. It’s unlikely to happen, however, as the current state contract with union employees does not allow that.
(This story was updated at 2;09 p.m. with additional information)