The top Democrat in the Iowa Senate says it’s likely legislators will act to reorganize and downsize state government in 2010.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says because of the economy, there will be "continuing challenges" to crafting next year’s state budget.
"We’ve been through tough times before and we’re Iowans. We tighten our belt," Gronstal says. "We deal with the challenges in front of us."
The state budget plan which legislators drafted for the bugdeting year that begins July 1st uses a large share of the federal economic stimulus money Iowa was given for education and health care. Gronstal says by doing that, the state held onto some of the "cash reserves" that have been set aside for emergencies.
"Next year is going to be incredibly challenging. I think folks understand that," Gronstal says. "I would tell you that’s one of the reasons why we did not dip as far into the reserve funds as we could have this year, so we still have $440 million sitting in our economic reserve funds."
In one of the final actions of the 2009 legislative session, Gronstal and other Democrats appointed a panel to examine ideas to reorganize and cut the state budget.
"Let me give you one example: Iowa has 22 data centers inside state government. Do you know how many data centers Google has worldwide? One," Gronstal says. "Does Iowa really need to have 22 data centers for computer services?"
The last major reorganization of state government occured over a quarter of a century ago when the number of state agencies was reduced from 64 to 24. Gronstal says state government isn’t unique in downsizing or reorganizing.
"You can see what’s happening in the auto industry right now. They’re talking about significant cuts in the number of dealerships. I was listening to that on the radio on the way in this morning," Gronstal says. "We’ve got to look at what it is we do. Figure out those things that we should continue to do and ways to do them more efficiently and figure out those things that we’re going to walk away from."
Gronstal made his comments during taping of "Iowa Press" which airs tonight at 7:30 on IPTV.
Republican legislators appear both supportive and skeptical of Gronstal’s government reorganization push.
"If Senator Gronstal and Senate Democrats are truly interested in limiting the size and scope of state government, Senate Republicans are more than willing to offer our suggestions, our experience and our leadership," Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton said in a written statement. "But after three years of out-of-control spending, the creation of record levels of debt and their track record of constantly growing government – not Iowa’s economy, you might say we are a bit skeptical."
House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha says House Republicans offered various cost-cutting ideas that would have saved over $300 million in the spending plan for next year’s state budget. "That was an opportunity lost," Paulsen says.ubli