House Republicans released more information today on their proposal to cut the budget once the legislative session starts next week. Republicans who won control of the House in November say they’ll cut 500-million dollars from the state budget through the “Taxpayers First Act.”

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha says the cuts will begin with this year’s budget. “It would be right around a 115-million-dollars in the first year, and over the next three fiscal years its close to half a billion dollars,” Paulsen says. The plan includes returning any budget surpluses to taxpayers.

Paulsen says giving back tax dollars this year is still among the possibilities even though budget experts predict big budget shortfalls next year. “We haven’t ruled out anything….that’s something that the Ways and Means Committee will be looking at,” Paulsen says.

Other cost-cutting measures in the bill would charge state employees — including the legislators — for health insurance; ban new vehicle purchases; limit university library acquisitions; and eliminate state smoking cessation programs; reducing office supply purchases and freezing out of state travel. Some state programs would be eliminated, including state-funded preschool, the office of energy independence, the state power fund, and the education departments new core curriculum program.

House Democrats have rejected many of the budget cutting ideas in the past, and Democrats still control the Senate and could still stand in the way.

House Democrat leader, Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines, issued this statement on the Republican proposal:
“After promising to save $200-$300 million dollars in the current fiscal year, Republicans have dramatically missed their own goal by several hundred million dollars. The plan outlined by House Republicans today stunningly spends $23-million more from the state’s general fund than was approved during the 2010 session. Including savings outside the general fund, the plan only saves a paltry one third of one percent,” according to McCarthy, who cited an analysis from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency. “Their plan also rewards big tobacco companies by ending smoking cessation efforts that help Iowans kick the smoking habit.”

Senate Democrat leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs issued this statement:
“It’s disappointing to see that the first bill proposed by the new House Republican majority completely ignores the needs of Iowa families and Main Street businesses that are looking for job-creation leadership in the midst of a lingering national recession.

“Too many Iowans are still out of work and this proposal turns a deaf ear on them and their needs. In fact, many of the proposed cuts put a bull’s eye on the backs of Iowa’s working families by targeting services for our most vulnerable citizens and reducing our state’s quality of life.

“At the same time, I am glad to see House Republicans express some interest in joining our successful efforts to trim state spending and downsize state government. We are willing to work with Republicans in the Legislature and with the new Governor on budget savings that make sense for Iowa taxpayers.”