A sweeping state government reorganization effort is getting bipartisan support, even though details of the package are still being crafted.
A 10-member panel of legislators from both parties started discussing ideas this past summer and next Wednesday a Senate committee will consider a bill to implement many of the changes being proposed. Senator Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, has been part of the on-going discussion.
“It’s amazing what happens when a budget is so tight,” Feenstra says. “All of a sudden, everybody comes to the table and says, ‘Where can we make a difference?'”
Feenstra says it’s been an “exciting” process that could yield up to $150 million in savings in the next state budgeting year.
“When we can reduce the number of commissions and reduce the number of government workers, I think it’s a good thing for all Iowans,” Feenstra says.
Democratic leaders in the legislature are reluctant to put a price tag on potential savings at this point. House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, puts it this way: “the more the better.”
“We really don’t want to go out and say it’s ‘X’ amount of dollars and then find out we were a little bit high or a little bit low. We really want people to see legitimatly what those savings are going to be,” Murphy says. “And quite frankly, we think we’ve got a very bipartisan bill that we will have, hopefully, broad bipartisan support for…so I think it’s something that could be one of the major pieces of legislation we get done this year to make things work more efficiently and save taxpayers a lot of money.”
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says there may be some “legitimate” objections raised about some of the proposals.
“We don’t have things priced out yet…so we may in fact think we had a really good idea…that frankly doesn’t save you hardly any money and in that case, we might decide there’s a piece or two of this that we’re not going to do,” Gronsal says. “But overall…what we’re telling everybody involved in this is the less we accomplish in terms of savings, the more we have to cut budgets.”
Gronstal says he’s been telling legislators that saying, “No,” to government reorganization is not an option this year.