The 2010 Iowa Legislative session is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. this morning, with state government reorganization at the top of the agenda.
Last month Governor Culver endorsed a series of budget-trimming ideas. The ideas came from a consulting firm Culver hired to cull through the budget.
Now, legislators plan to review those proposals and advance some of their own. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says lawmakers plan to “recast” state government in a way that’s more efficient.
“We think there are scores of millions of dollars to be saved there,” Gronstal says.
According to Gronstal, legislators must come up with the new operating structure of state government before they begin to draw up a budget.
“The first key is how much are we going to accomplish on state government reorg in terms of savings,” Gronstal says. “And that’s why that’s probably going to be the first ‘big bill’ we move through out process.”
The last major reorganization of state government occurred over two decades ago when the number of state agencies was reduced from 64 to 24.
A bipartisan panel of legislators met this fall and in early December endorsed a list of recommendations which called for shuffling some programs into other agencies, but did not call for merging or eliminating any existing state agencies.
House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha suggests state government reorganization is just the start of a long process.
“I think the biggest issue coming and the place where we’re going to spend the bulk of the time is on the budget,” Paulsen says.
For example, about 60 percent of the state’s budget is spent on education and legislators will have to wrestle with maintaining past promises to help raise K-through-12 teacher salaries, as well as a promise to maintain a consistent level of taxpayer support of the three state universities in order to avoid large increases in student tuition.