August 29, 2014

Wringing $3.5 million out of the state budget

A bill that squeezes about $3.5 million in savings out of the state budget is on its way to the governor’s desk. The bill is a collection of mostly small ideas, like printing official documents on both sides of a piece of paper and using email, when possible, to send state documents and notices.

Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, acknowledged the aim had been a bit higher.

“I know that we would have liked to have found additional dollars in savings,” Mascher says. “But this is a good start.”

Republicans backed away from some of their earlier ideas, like selling off state-owned land to raise money and forbidding food stamp recipients from using their benefits to buy junk food. Legislators also balked at the idea of reducing their own pensions by no longer allowing lawmakers to count their daily expense money as income. 

“The moral of this story is the maximum savings in this bill are $3.5 million,” said Representative Peter Cownie, a Republican from West Des Moines. “This could have gone a lot deeper, but we are in the final days of session. I do believe we have an agreed upon bill.”

The legislation cleared the Iowa House on an 88 to zero vote today. The Senate approved the same measure last week. If Governor Branstad approves the bill, a few state boards will be eliminated or combined.