Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, sketched out his ideas for next year’s state budget last night and suggested that most areas of state government be cut by 6.5 percent.
Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley held a news conference this morning and expressed some skepticism about Culver’s plan. "Six and a half percent I think is a start, but we haven’t seen any detail yet, so we simply can’t comment on if it is even 6.5 percent," McKinley says.
The governor’s budget plan would pay only two percent of the previously promised four percent increase in general state aid to K-through-12 public schools, but the governor proposes that school districts be given the authority to raise local taxes to make up the difference. McKinley says Republicans will oppose that. "I don’t believe Iowans are in the mood for tax increases," McKinley says.
The legislature has entered its third week and McKinley says it’s time to step up the pace. McKinley says the budget committees which review spending plans are scheduled to meet just twice a week rather than three times a week, as had been the general custom in the past. "That’s our job as a legislator, to make sure that Iowans’ tax dollars are being spent wisely. I think everybody should look at every…line item in great detail," McKinley says. "That’s what we’re here to do."
House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, issued the following statement in response via email, without addressing McKinley’s complaint about the reduced workload for legislators: "The Governor’s budget will be released tomorrow. Our budget chairs and members will work with Republicans to scrutinize every dollar of state spending to find efficiencies and waste. While there are difficult decisions to make, we will produce a fiscally responsible budget."Republicans are once again pressing for amendments to the state constitution which would set new limits on state spending.