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Iowa Courthouses Set to Close Eight Days Between March and June - Page 3 PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 27 February 2009 15:07

Democrats Release Budget Targets, Aim to Spend Less Than Culver

Iowa Democratic legislative leaders this week released the skeleton of a $6.1-billion budget plan that they said spends $133 million less than the plan proposed by Culver and makes cuts that are 2 percent deeper -- for a total of about an 8.5-percent cut to most areas of state government.

Those are the targets that we expect our committees to meet,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs), noting that adjustments may still have to be made after the Revenue Estimating Conference meets March 20 to adjust state-revenue projections. “We have cut deeper to be prepared for whatever happens.”

Under the plan, Democrats would use $100 million from the state’s cash reserves, instead of $200 million as proposed by the governor. The legislature would also adopt the governor’s recommendation to eliminate $30 million in tax credits -- not necessarily the same ones proposed by the Culver, but roughly the same dollar amount.

Beyond that, Democratic legislative leaders refused to elaborate Thursday on specifics of where or how cuts will be made, saying that work will be left to budget subcommittees in the next month.

It’s partly across-the-board, and it’s partly looking at specifics,” Gronstal said of the proposed cuts that led to the budget targets. “I’m willing to let my subcommittees do their work. I think this is pretty good direction; I think it’s pretty serious direction, as well.”

Phil Roeder, a spokesperson for Culver, said the budget targets underscore the point that Culver has been making for the past several months: That state government needs to cut spending.

"We’re glad everyone involved is showing leadership on this issue," Roeder said. "The governor and legislative leadership are heading in the same direction by cutting state spending during the middle of this national economic recession."

Republican legislative leaders said they were not given the budget targets until after they were released Thursday morning to the media.

Just standing alone in that chart, they don’t mean a whole lot, because we haven’t seen what transfers are going to be made, how much of that they’re calculating in federal stimulus money,” said House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha). “We’ll need to delve into it. That’s their targets, and now we’ve got to start looking at how they fall out underneath them.”

Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) said Republicans only heard that Democrats had proposed a 7.5-percent cut that would perhaps be backfilled with federal stimulus money.

Our position all along is that we have spent so much the past two years -- spending has exploded by 21 percent,” McKinley said. “That’s what’s created this problem and the painful cuts that will follow.”

Democrats said the plan released Thursday does not include any of the money from Iowa’s $1.9-billion share of the federal stimulus package. Democrats said the stimulus money will spare Medicaid from cuts but warned against others looking to that money to save them.

Other people looking at federal stimulus as a way to save things, I think those are going to be exceedingly limited,” Gronstal said. “Do not expect the federal stimulus package will bail out all of the cuts.”