Leaders in the Iowa House and Senate are hoping the 2009 Legislature is in its final days, but a variety of issues remain unresolved. The governor’s proposed $750 million, state-level economic stimulus package is among those unresolved items.
"I really feel strongly that if we’re going to do this it needs to be bold," Governor Culver says. "It needs to help communities statewide, not only those in flood-impacted areas, but in places like Sioux City and northwest Iowa that have a lot of infrastructure needs."
Culver has been traveling the state for weeks, highlighting "shovel-ready" projects he says could be financed by the $750 million he proposes to borrow. But Culver, a Democrat, has met resistance from Republicans and fellow Democrats on the part of his "I-JOBS" plan that called for borrowing $250 million for transportation-related projects.
"The legislature has made it clear that they’d rather not invest that much into roads and bridges," Culver says. "They’d rather pay-as-you-go for those types of projects and use some of the federal transportation stimulus money…I agree with that, so that number in all likelihood will be reduced."
Culver proposed $150 million for disaster preparation projects and flood recovery as well as $100 dollars on projects to improve water quality. Democrats in the legislature have started debating bills which match some of the ideas Culver proposed, but Senator Bob Dvorsky of Iowa City says Culver won’t get his wish that the entire package be consolidated into one bill.
"The governor can take all of those bills together and say it’s one package and go with it. Then he can sign them all at one time or whatever," Dvorsky says. "That big of a bill and all the various things we’re doing, it’s tough to do that all in one bill."
In other statehouse action this week, critics of the recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling which legalized gay marriage plan to rally again today at the statehouse. Representative Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, has vowed to again try to force House action on a proposal that would set the wheels in motion for a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment which would ban gay marriage in Iowa.
"Express the will of the people," Rants urged House members last week.
House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says Rants and his fellow Republicans last Thursday tried to jettison a bill that forwarded money to poor and disabled Iowans as well as veterans and substitute it with their anti-gay marriage proposal.
"I think Iowans will take their anger out on them if they continue to do dilatory tactics such as this," Murphy says.
Another unresolved issue in the legislature is a tax bill that would dramatically change Iowa’s income tax code and provide 60 percent of middle and low income Iowans with a tax cut. The group Iowans for Tax Relief is urging its members to come to the capitol on Tuesday in hopes of derailing that bill. Speaker Murphy predicts that lobbying effort will fail.
"You never know for sure until you take up the bill, but right now I feel comfortable that we will be able to get the 51 votes and pass the bill," Murphy says.
Legislators are allotted daily expense money to cover a 110-day session this year and the last payment under that plan would be made May 1st. But legislative leaders announced in late December they intended to end the session earlier as a means of saving money in the legislative branch budget.