Iowa lawmakers will gather in the capitol today for a “special” legislative session to deal with the state’s budget crisis. Governor Vilsack ordered a 200-million dollar across-the-board cut in the state budget November 1st. Today, legislators will vote to restore about 26-million dollars worth of cuts to a few vital state programs. They’ll also vote on a reorganization plan for the Department of Human Services and ratify incentives to get some state workers to retire early. Officials estimate up to a thousand state workers will still lose their jobs. Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Dows says times are tough, and cuts must be made. Iverson says some will likely criticize lawmakers for not cutting enough.Senate President Mary Kramer, a republican from West Des Moines, says it was hard to decide public safety shouldn’t be cut, but schools should. She says, “deciding where restoration should be made is like deciding which one of your children you like the best.”Labor groups, including the state teacher’s union, held a news conference yesterday to lobby legislators to tap into the state’s economic emergency account rather than make the budget cuts. Iowa State Education Association president Jolene Franken called them “extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures.”Iowa Federation of Labor president Mark Smith went one step further. He suggested legislators should raise the state income tax to ensure government programs continue at present levels. He says the working families he represents understand there aren’t any free rides.The public will find it hard to go to the statehouse today to monitor the legislature’s work. The House is meeting in their normal digs, but Senators will crowd into a conference room that’s one-quarter the size of their normal meeting space. There’s not room for Senate staff, and no spots for the public to watch the proceedings.
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