Can session dodge an IA budget crisis?
As local Republicans State Senator Steve Kettering and State Representative Gary Worthan joined legislators from across the state to convene the 2009 Iowa Legislative session Monday, both said averting a state budget crisis is job one. Both disagree with Democrat Governor Chet Culver's method to help "fix" the situation with a $700 million bonding plan for state projects including flood recovery and repairing aging roads and bridges in the state. After the Governor's Condition of the State speech, both noted that Culver asked lawmakers to borrow $700 million in bonds with hopes the stimulus would jumpstart the economy.
According to Culver, the bonds would be repaid over a 20 year period with funds governed by a Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Board. They say Iowa would repay the bonds by using over $50 million a year in gambling profits. Worthan says he feels Culver's method in borrowing that sizeable quantify of money is the wrong way to go.
"It appears he's going to spend money and let his children and grandchildren pay for it," says Kettering.
"I'm not going to say it's not going to pass but I will not vote for bonding of that type," adds Worthan. Both said lawmakers weren't given all the details they needed about the bonding plan.
Kettering says some other issues that could come before the legislature this session are labor issues including collective bargaining, right to work, prevailing wages and workers compensation. However, Worthan said those issues as well as other legislative priorities weren't something Culver talked about during his Condition of the State speech Tuesday. "I don't know whether those are off the table or he just failed to mention them," Worthan says.
Worthan hopes the legislature will continue to make progress during this session with policy issues including agricultural issues like the ethanol industry. "Those plants (VeraSun) are going to run. There's too much investment out there for them to sit idle," says Worthan in response to the uncertainty at VeraSun's plants after the company filed for bankruptcy end the end of last year, idling plants like the one at Albert City, "Those plants will run at some level, the marketplace has to determine what that level is."
Kettering says Culver did acknowledge State Auditor David Vaudt's critical comments on inappropriate spending. "The governor said he didn't figure this was the year to raise taxes," Kettering said.
Kettering says he feels the budget pitfalls haven't been just a result of the economic downfall across the nation but says the downfall will definitely only make the budget situation worse. "It's obvious overspending has caused problems for Iowans," he says.
Worthan worries that gaming funds used to pay back the money borrowed will take away from other important needs in Iowa like capital improvement funds and lake restoration money and wonders whether dredging funds will be available for Storm Lake.