The top Democrat in the Iowa Senate says anything that’s not "nailed down" in the state budget may be cut as lawmakers deal with sagging state tax revenues. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says that means every alternative should be considered, including layoffs of state workers or an across-the-board cut in overall state spending.
"We have a significant bump in the road this year that we’re going to have to deal with…Our revenues are stagnant or maybe even in slight declines and we’ll have challenges just as we had challenges back in 2001 and 2002 and 2003," Gronstal says. "…But I’ve got to tell you I am more optimistic about the future of Iowa and the future of our economy than I have ever been in my life and I’ve got to tell you, I think that’s a pretty unique circumstance."
Gronstal cites the state’s renewable fuels industry — ethanol plants and wind turbines — as a bright spot since Iowa has become a net exporter of energy. But Gronstal admits the economic downturn will force Iowa legislators to make cuts in state spending. "I’m not going to rule anything out or rule anything in," Gronstal says. "At this point, one of the things I want to make sure Iowa does — one of the challenges beyond just balancing the budget is make sure we have a good disaster recovery, a rebuild Iowa effort after the natural disasters of this summer."
The state has more than $600 million set aside in cash reserve accounts and Gronstal says it may be time to use that money to rebuild roads, bridges and other infrastructure that was damaged by the flooding. "If I was going to dip into the rainy day fund, I’d want to dip into it because of the rain," Gronstal says.
Promised teacher pay increases are among the items Gronstal says are off the table when it comes to cutting the state budget. Gronstal made his comments on the Iowa Public Television program, "Iowa Press" which aired tonight and is rebroadcast Sunday morning at 11.