State legislators heard conflicting messages from the more than three dozen Iowans who testified at a public hearing late this afternoon at the statehouse. Some urged more cuts in the massive budget bill that will be debated in the House Wednesday, while others urged lawmakers to spend more.
Roy Mils, a retiree from Pleasant Hill, pleaded for deeper reductions in state spending.
“The people of Iowa, especially the retired people, cannot afford what you’re doing to us,” Mils said. “I think it’s arrogant for me to come here and lecture you, but I think it’s arrogant for you not to do your jobs. Every one of you took an oath to the constitution of this state which requires a balanced budget.”
Sue Williams, a kindergarten teacher in Winterset, lamented the Republican plan to reduce state support of preschool programs.
“To cut funding by 50 percent as proposed in this bill seems like a ploy to balance the budget on the backs of four-year-olds,” Williams said.
Ryan Rhodes, a leader in the Iowa Tea Party movement, told legislators Iowans want a smaller government.
“I’m not here to ask anybody for more money,” Rhodes said. “I think the budget that’s being put forward is already too big.”
Mark Cooper, president of the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, blasted proposed cuts in commercial property taxes and he called the Republicans’ budget plan “draconian.”
“Please vote no on this horrible budget and draft a budget that has all Iowans in mind, not just the priviledged,” Cooper said.
The property tax reform plan that will tacked onto the budget bill would cut commercial and industrial property taxes by 25 percent over five years. Francis Giunta, president of the Communication Workers of America Iowa Council, lectured Republicans.
“Iowa House Republcians are again showing their true colors, Giunta said, “still favoring tax breaks for corporations over funding vital services that Iowa’s working families rely on.”
John Gilliland of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry suggested the scaled-back property tax reduction plan Republicans are inserting into the bill is a worthy compromise to benefit corporations that are Iowa’s “job creators”.
“For many Iowans, that’s the kind of relief that will mean the difference between having a job and not having a job,” Gilliland said, “having health insurance or not having health insurance.”
At about 8:30 Wednesday morning, the House is scheduled to begin debate on a bill that would both outline state spending for the next two years and lay out the latest Republican plan for cutting property taxes. The bill is more than 600 pages long and a final vote on the package is expected Wednesday afternoon.
Senate Democrats have said some of the provisions in the bill make “small steps forward,” but it is by no means a final resolution to the impasse over the state budget and high-profile policy-related issues.