Advocates for the poor are calling on the Governor and legislators to spend 24-million dollars from the state’s “rainy day” savings account on programs that benefit the poor. Jim Cain is executive director of the Iowa Coalition for Housing and the Homeless. He says “human beings are suffering as a result of the economic downturn.” He says now is not the time to cuts the funds that help them.Cain says lawmakers should take action to help the poor when they convene in “special session” on Thursday. But Governor Tom Vilsack, a democrat, says republicans who control the legislature’s agenda won’t vote to dip into the state’s emergency funds.Governor Vilsack is suggesting lawmakers approve the use of severance packages to get some state workers off the payroll without actually firing ’em. Vilsack’s calling for “lump sum” payments to some state workers.It would only be offered to workers who’ve been employed by the state at least 10 years.Vilsack wants to give the directors of state agencies the authority to pick and choose who might qualify for the payoff. He says it would be a fixed dollar amount based on years of service. Vilsack says it’s not unlike what would be paid in the corporate world.Lawmakers are set to return to Des Moines Thursday for an “extraordinary legislative session” to deal with the state budget crisis, and they’ll discuss early retirement incentives to get high-paid state workers off the payroll. Officials expect about 700 workers to take advantage of the early retirement package. Legislative leaders will meet with Governor Tom Vilsack this afternoon to try to hammer out the final details of the plan to restore some of the state budget cuts made to critical areas, like public safety and defense.
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