Iowa lawmakers set vastly different budget goals

DES MOINES – Leaders in the Republican-led House and Democratic-led Senate released budget goals Wednesday that appeared miles apart, but both sides said their plans would achieve the state mandate of spending less than Iowa receives in revenue.

Gov. Terry Branstad last month put out a $6.5 billion plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. On Wednesday, House leaders called for spending less money than that and Senate leaders proposed spending more.

Based on their target budget numbers, the House wants to spend about $6.4 billion and the Senate $6.9 billion. Both sides say their plans meet the state requirement not to spend more than 99 percent of revenue, with the Democrats spending 95 percent and the Republicans 90 percent.

Republicans said they want to focus on keeping expenses down while still providing funds for key priorities such as education and tax credits.

“The budget target is efficient, effective and necessary as we face financial uncertainty in the state of Iowa,” said Rep. Chuck Soderberg, R-Le Mars, noting looming federal fiscal threats as well as drought-like conditions in the state as reasons to be cautious.

Democrats said the state’s strong fiscal position makes this a time to invest in such areas as education, workforce development and health care.

“We’re trying to expand the middle class in Iowa and we have a unique opportunity now, with the way the revenues are coming in,” said Sen. Robert Dvorsky, D-Coralville.