September 23, 2014

DHS budget still at a stalemate in the legislature

Legislators who’re negotiating the budget plan for the Iowa Department of Human Services have yet to discuss the most divisive issue facing the group. The Republican-led Iowa House has voted to forbid state tax dollars from being used for abortions in cases of rape or incest.

Democrats who control the debate agenda in the Iowa Senate have rejected that proposal. Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, says the focus is drafting a budget plan first.

 “We’re strictly trying to get to the numbers,” Heaton says. “We want to agree on the numbers before we talk policy.” Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, says there’s a stalemate between the two parties over how much to spend on state welfare programs.

“The State of Iowa had a better quarter than GM or Wells Fargo,” Hatch says. “We want to invest in people and families and getting people back on jobs. Now it’s a matter of trying to shake loose from this money tree that the Republicans are protecting.”

Heaton, a long-time legislator, has worked worked on this part of the state budget for 14 years. “This session is proving to be a little different than the ones in the past,” Heaton says. “The difference between us is much greater than it has been. We have a difference of philosophies when we sit down to work with this budget.”

Heaton says Republicans do not want to use “one-time” resources, like money from the current year’s budget that is unspent. Hatch suggests the final stalemate won’t be over spending, but over the abortion issue. “We thought that that was something that we avoided this year,” Hatch says. “But apparently not.”

The dispute between the two parties over the abortion issue stretched to the final hours of the 2011 legislative session before there was a resolution.