The split Iowa Legislature has taken another step toward adjournment by agreeing to state budget targets. Details for the budget of about $7.3 billion remain pretty vague at this point. Here’s what IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell says are the important details to watch this week:
1) State layoffs are possible. Senator Bob Divorsky, the Democratic head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says next year’s budget will be difficult and calls it an ugly budget. “There will be no big raises for anyone,” Russell says. The state’s budget is largely status quo and in general, state agencies will get at least as much as last year.
2) Water quality funding details could get clearer. House Republicans have a bill they’re calling historic levels for water quality. “One crucial point is that while they’re going to set aside money for water quality, it’s all going to come from existing programs,” Russell says. Senate majority leader Mike Gronstal (D- Council Bluffs) says his biggest concern about their plan is that it takes money away from K-12 education. Senate Democrats say they will unveil their bill this week.
3) One of the biggest obstacles is done. The House and Senate have settled on what’s called joint budget targets for overall spending. “That was a big obstacle that’s been removed and so now work is beginning in earnest on the budget,” Russell says. With adjournment scheduled for April 19, this could be the last full week of the legislature in 2016.
4) Republican and Democratic State lawmakers continue to stake out positions ahead of election. “There have been an unusual amount of bills that passed one chamber with virtually no expectation of action in the other chamber. Governor Branstad signed many bills last week. One bill signing drew a big crowd suggesting bipartisan support that increased access to the drug Naloxone, a drug that’s given someone whose overdosed on opioids to counteract an overdose.