The scheduled adjournment date for the 2008 Iowa Legislature is April 22nd and lawmakers are starting to nail down the details in next year’s state budget. "We’ll start beginnning some budget debate as we shift to the final phase of the legislative session," says House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says by Monday of next week, the public should be able to determine the scope of the budget plan Democrats are drawing up for next year. "We’ll have a full balance sheet out for everybody to review and understand what we’re doing," Gronstal says.
House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City is predictably skeptical of the budget plan Democrats are advancing. "The Democrats don’t seem to have a roadmap yet on how they’re going to balance the budget or if they do have a roadmap, they’re keeping it to themselves and are unwilling to share it with the general public," Rants says.
State tax receipts are running way ahead of expectations, meaning there will be millions of dollars in the state treasury that are not budgeted this year. If there’s unspent money in state coffers on June 30th — the last day of the state’s current budgeting year — Senate Republican Leader Ron Wieck of Sioux City says it should be used for road construction and repair. "We continue to talk about the serious problem that we’ve got and we’re not hearing any solid conversation about doing anything right away with that," Wieck says, "so if there are any additional monies available, that is where I’d put it."
Democrats who control the legislature’s debate agenda, however, are not interested in that move.
Also this week, Democrats may revive debate of a controversial labor bill and make changes in the legislation, changes sought by a fellow Democrat — Governor Chet Culver. Culver has raised concerns about the bill which would expand the subjects which may be discussed during public employee contract negotiations.
Senate Democratic Leader Gronstal is not willing to reveal what those changes might be. "We’re going to work with the governor. We’re not going to do it through press release or through press conference. We’re going to work in good faith with the governor and I’m confident we’ll get there," Gronstal says.