Legislators aim to reduce spending

     The 2018 session of the Iowa Legislature gets underway this week, and local legislators hope to bring the state budget in line this year by spending less.

     Senator Dennis Guth says the first thing the legislature needs to deal with is shrinking revenues, as the budget they established last April has come up short. He says the state is currently behind $36 million in expected revenue, and senate Republicans would like to cut $100 million from this year’s budget so they don’t have to go back and make cuts later.

     Representative Tedd Gassman says that in the past, the legislature has tried to spend no more than 99% of the available money determined by the December Revenue Estimating Conference. “I believe, for now anyway, that we should decrease the amount to spend by 3 percent until we can find a better way to estimate the future,” said Gassman. Guth agrees with that assessment, saying senate Republicans may shoot to spend just 96-97% of predicted revenue in the future.

     Gassman says another top priority going into the new session is to get K-12 funding passed within the first 30 days. “This will give our schools plenty of time to set up their budgets,” said Gassman.

     Guth says that with the squeeze on the budget this year, he doubts schools will get any more tax dollars. “If there are a few new dollars to spend on schools, I support the idea of using that to equalize the cost of transporting kids to and from school. Most schools in rural Iowa have a cost of over $500/pupil; some much more than that. Urban schools may have a cost of only $50 or so. By helping with transportation costs, the state will put more money in the pocket of rural schools where it is needed most.”

     See full story in this week's Tribune.