Today marks the beginning of what leaders hope will be the final week of the 2009 legislative session. Bills outlining state spending for the next year are on the "must-do" list, while other items — like a bill that would dramatically change Iowa’s income tax system — are on the "might-do" list.
House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha doesn’t consider the Democrats’ tax proposal dead, but Democrats in the House are one vote short of the votes that’re necessary to pass it. "I think that the fact that they’re struggling to get it passed is definitely a credit to Iowans and the fact that they have engaged so directly and so adamantly on this question," Paulsen says.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs is still pressing for the plan. "We have a very modest proposal out there to provide tax cuts to Iowans in the middle class — Iowans that pay more than their fair share now and this effort corrects that a bit," Gronstal says. "I’m surprised Republicans are against it. We’ll see how that shakes out."
Another tax proposal is on the "want-to-do" list. The bill would extend the state tax breaks that lured Google to build a "server farm" in western Iowa to other large "data centers" that store records for hospitals, insurance companies and other businesses. Senator Roger Thomas, a Democrat from Elkader, says Department of Economic Development officials tell him the concept is alluring.
"They’ve got about 11 companies that are interesting in looking at Iowa since we’ve introduced the bill," Thomas says.
By law, legislators are allotted daily expense money for 110 days this year which would push the session’s end to May 1, but Gronstal, the top Democrat in the senate, has been pushing legislators to adjourn before that in order to save money — a sort of furlough for lawmakers.
"Listen we’re going to get the work done we need to get done and then we’re going to get out of here as quickly as possible," Gronstal says. "That work includes everything we can get enough votes to pass. We’ve got to pass a budget. We’re working on that."
House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha says Democrats have put together a $6.3 billion state budget. "Despite the talk of all the cuts…when we’re done Fiscal Year ’10 is going to be more spending than the state has ever done in its entire history," Paulsen says.
If the governor gets his wish and legislators endorse a $750 million borrowing plan for infrastructure projects, total state spending for the next budgeting year will top $7 billion.
"I just find it remarkable that while we’re talking about tough times and reducing spending is that the truth of the matter when this all shakes out is that spending’s going to go up in a dramatic fashion," Paulsen says.
Tonight, a public hearing will be held at the statehouse so Iowans can share their thoughts on a proposed change in Iowa’s sex offender law. Current law prohibits paroled sex offenders from living within two-thousand feet of a school or day care. The new proposal would make places where kids congregation — like schools, day care centers, libraries and parks — off limits to sex offenders and get rid of the residency restriction for all sex offenders, keeping it in place for only the most dangerous pedophiles.