Later today Governor Chet Culver plans to announce details of $40 million worth of cuts in the state budget. Four legislative leaders appeared at a forum sponsored by Monday afternoon and each discussed the state’s budget difficulties.

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says he’s been briefed by the governor, but won’t discuss details until after Culver makes his announcement. "This next session of the legislature is going to be daunting and challenging," Gronstal said Monday afternoon, "and we’re going to have to struggle through some very difficult budget choices."

Gronstal, who was first elected to the legislature in 1982, says he’s watched the state survive challenging times before — during the Farm Crisis of the 1980s, the recession in the early 1990s and the recession that worsened after the 9/11 attacks. "We do have challenges this year in our budget and they are significant challenges and they will involve some pain, but we’ve been through that before," Gronstal says.

Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton says state government cannot continue to spend at current rates. "For every dollar in (tax) revenue we’ve brought in the past two years, we’ve spent $1.50," McKinley says. "Now, Iowans can’t spend that way and government can’t spend that way."

Representative Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Garner, suggests it’s time to let Iowans see more state budget details on-line. "When you talk about looking at the governments’ budgets and where, you know, you might be able to save some dollars, I think if we implemented a program like perhaps Kansas, Texas, some other states have done recently — really opened our books up for people to look at and for our contracts just so people could see precisely what the government’s doing we might actually receive some input in where we might be able to find some spending cuts," she says.

Making government more "transparent and accountable" is a priority item for Republicans in the House for 2009 according to Upmeyer.