The 2010 legislative session is scheduled to start on Monday with lawmakers facing the prospect of cutting another half a billion dollars from next year’s state spending plan.
House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, isn’t ruling out laying off a significant number of state workers.
“We’re in the biggest recession since the Great Depression,” Murphy says. “…I think we’re hitting historic problems that we’ve never seen before…so I think a lot of things have yet to be determined.”
Three unions representing workers in the executive branch of state government accepted pay and benefit cuts to avoid layoffs following the 10 percent, across-the-board cut the governor ordered in October. Now, with a need to trim even more state spending for the budgeting year that begins on July 1, 2010, Murphy says it’s important for legislators to act quickly.
“There’s no question it’s going to be difficult…and I think it’s responsible for the legislature to first of all, cut our reimbursements,” Murphy says. “…I think one of the other things we need to do is get it done quickly so everybody knows exactly what page they’re on.”
Democrats control the debate agenda in the Iowa House and Senate because Democrats hold more legislative seats than Republicans do. House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha says with the budget problems, Republican legislators have a chance to prove to Iowans over the next four months that they’re fiscal conservatives.
“Making sure we pass a budget that doesn’t spend more than what we bring in,” Paulsen says.
Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton says Republicans want to “remove barriers” to job growth.
“If we do the right things in this state, we can create jobs,” McKinley says. “But we have to get out of the notion of overspending.”
The three legislators made their comments during recent appearances on Iowa Public Television.