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Lawmakers Working on “Painful” 12-Percent Cut to State Government PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 27 March 2009 14:51

Mike GronstalThe Iowa legislature's budget subcommittees worked this week to craft budgets for various areas of state government that would cut an average of 12 percent after state revenue estimates were lowered by $269.9 million next fiscal year, making layoffs almost a certainty.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal called the decline in state revenues "the worst I've ever seen" in 27 years in the legislature and said everything is at risk of being cut.

"I wouldn't say there's anything off the table," said Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs). "These are incredibly challenging times. ... We will do, probably in some cases, across-the-board stuff. We will also make selective cuts."

Nineteen full-time positions would be eliminated from the Department of Commerce under a budget bill approved Thursday by the legislature's administration and regulation budget subcommittee. The Department of Revenue would also lose about nine employees, and the governor's office would lose two.

"We know that what we're doing today is affecting programs, affecting state employees and affecting the state of Iowa," said Representative Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines), the committee's chair. "But we also know that under the situation we find ourselves in, we're doing the fiscally sound thing."

The bill would reduce general funds for the state auditor's office by 26.6 percent and for the governor's office by 24.9 percent. However, the auditor's office only gets about 11 percent of its money from the general fund, and cuts to the governor's office include moving two full-time positions from his office to the Rebuild Iowa Office. The Office of Drug Control Policy would see 83.3 percent less funding, but that will be replaced with federal dollars.

Meanwhile, nonviolent Iowa criminals might be given a way to shorten their sentences under one of the budget-cutting proposals being considered by members of the legislature's justice-system budget subcommittee.

And Department of Cultural Affairs Director Cyndi Pederson said the department would likely have to cut 25 seasonal employees. That would lead some Iowa landmarks to close, such as the site of the 1857 Spirit Lake Massacre and the Clermont home of Iowa's 12th governor, William Larrabee.

"It's going to be difficult and it's going to be painful," Gronstal said. "I think people will see some pain that goes along with this. I think people will see things that don't get done that they'd like to get done."

As for the current fiscal year that ends June 30, revenue estimates have been lowered by $129.7 million, but a portion of Iowa's $1.9-billion share of federal economic stimulus money will likely be used to prevent another across-the-board budget cut, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.