Iowa Rep. Jack Drake, R-Griswold, said the Iowa Legislature is moving slowly because there isn’t a lot of agreement between the Iowa Senate and Iowa House of Representatives. Sen. Hubert Houser, R-Carson, didn’t disagree.
The two Iowa lawmakers talked about the current session during a legislative coffee Saturday morning in the multi-purpose room of Southwestern Community College. The coffee, sponsored by Creston Chamber of Commerce, was the final one of this year.
“We’re moving most everything into conference committee, and this week was really quite a light, light week for us in the Senate,” said Houser. “Thursday morning we did one little bill. It was on the commercial property tax and the Senate just refused to agree with the House version, so that’s ready to go into the conference committee.”
Drake said he has concerns about the Senate proposals and the amount of money being spent.
“There’s been some interesting things going on between the House and the Senate,” said Drake. “Of course, all the budget bills are going to wind up in conference committee. The majority party in the Senate is spending money like there’s no end for tomorrow.
“Earlier they were up — they said their target, in February, and they were spending about 5 percent more than we’re taking in. ... Just recently they added another $47 million on top of it . So now it takes about 11 percent more money than we had last year appropriated. We do not have that kind of money in my opinion.”
Drake said the education reform bill has been tied up in conference committee, which is troubling for schools trying to put together budgets for next year.
“The House raised their numbers from 2 percent to almost 4 percent (allowable) growth for the next year,” Drake said. “But, the Senate is insisting on changing some of the policy issues in it. I don’t know what’s going to happen. The way some things are going — I hope it doesn’t do that — it might end up with zero percent allowable growth if they don’t come to an agreement.”
Some in the audience of near 30 local residents, posed questions to the lawmakers, but the answers were pretty much the same.
Creston resident Mike Lang asked about the $800 million budget surplus being carried over for the state.
“Can you assure me you’re going to make your best effort to prevent spending all that money and instead return part of it to the taxpayers?” Lang asked.
Drake said the House has passed a bill that would allow a tax credit on next year’s income taxes, but that’s as far as it has gotten. Houser said the Senate isn’t doing much with the issue.
“In terms of what to do with this $800 million, I’m not hearing a lot of discussion on that,” said Houser. “I should say there’s not any consensus coming together. In terms of returning it to the taxpayers, I don’t see that bill moving.”
Questions were asked regarding prevention of insider trading by elected politicians, a bill that provides funding for adult literacy, local control of animal confinements, Internet sales tax, apprenticeships for electricians and a bill that regulates home schools, but few answers were forthcoming.
Houser and Drake both said these issues are either not being discussed currently and probably will not be this year, or they were not aware of the status of those bills.