Local lawmakers see budget tensions flaring

Thursday, October 18, 2001

As winter creeps toward Iowa, the bipartisan relationship between Republicans and Democrats in the Iowa Legislature is hitting a few more bumps in the road.

Tensions are flaring after Gov. Tom Vilsack revealed the state finished the last fiscal year with a deficit instead of the surplus originally reported.

As a potential solution, the governor has proposed making 4.3 percent cuts across the board for state agencies, something which has made some legislators very unhappy. There is already talk of a special session to resolve the issue either later this month or in early November.

"That's going to be the biggest focus," Rep. Dan Huseman, (R, Aurelia), said of the budget cuts. "There may be a couple of other things we'll deal with that we're talking with the governor. They might include early retirement programs for some state employees. It's been kicked around for a while, but it's been picking up steam."

"I would hesitate to say anything right now," Sen. Mary Lou Freeman, (R, Storm Lake), said of the budget issue. "We need to do what we can to protect public safety. I say that based on the fact that the primary purpose for the government in the United States is for the protection of the people."

Huseman added that the current budget situation has left the governor and legislature no choice on the matter.

"I guess we don't have any choice," he said. "The governor has said he wasn't going to raise taxes and if you don't have the money, we just have to trim back. We're seeing something in Iowa that we haven't seen before and that's that revenue rates have just flatlined."

With the budget heading south, tensions are growing. During a press conference last week, Speaker of the House Brent Siegrist and Majority Leader Chris Rants reportedly used some strong and emotional language in discussing the budget.

"I never have liked name calling and I regret that those things were said," Freeman said. I don't think the name-calling is going to help and would prefer that we worked hand-in-hand to get us through this crisis."

She added she isn't sure what kind of effect this will all have on the parties' bipartisan relationship.

For Huseman, the issue of the remarks boils down to differences in political philosophies.

"There's always going to be differences as far as the political philosophies. I would say probably in the last week or so things have gotten a little better," he said. "They indicated that maybe what they said was taken a little bit out of context."

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