A public hearing is scheduled this evening to give Iowans a chance to comment on a bill scheduled for debate in the Iowa House on Wednesday afternoon. Republicans like House Speaker Kraig Paulsen tout the bill as a major effort to cut state spending. 

“We’re doing exactly what we said we were going to do through the campaign and that is address state government, address state spending,” Paulsen says. “We’re going to address state taxes.”

An analysis from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency concludes the bill would wind up reducing the current year’s state budget by just $6.5 million, with an estimated $345 million in cuts over the next three years. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines ridicules the “meager” cuts in the current year’s budget.

“They saved a whopping $6 million — approximately one-tenth-of-one-percent of our current fiscal year’s budget,” McCarthy says. “…They have failed in their first order of business to meet their own expectations. They have failed in terms of the promises they made to Iowans and it’s our job…to point that out.” 

Paulsen bristles at the suggestion that the plan only cuts $6.5 million in state spending this year. “I don’t believe those are the right numbers,” Paulsen says. “I know this: it’s a reduction in every fiscal year that it addresses.”

The bill would end state support of preschool programs and Republicans promise to provide vouchers for low-income parents who want to send their kids to preschool. Representative Cindy Winckler, a Democrat from Davenport, says vouchers aren’t enough.

“Vouchers do not guarantee access,” Winckler says. “If you have a voucher and no place to spend it, where are you?”

Republicans say the state can’t afford to pay for preschool for all four-year-olds.

The public hearing on this wide-ranging budget bill will be held at the statehouse. It starts at 6:30 and ends at 8:30 tonight.