Gronstal: Balancing Iowa's budget will be huge challenge
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -- Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal says the upcoming Iowa legislative session should be one of the most challenging yet.
For fiscal year 2010, the Iowa legislature made cuts to make up for a $600 million shortfall in state revenues. Part of the belt tightening included $200 million in a state government reorganization program.
Last week, the Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference projected the legislature had done enough to balance the 2010 budget, but now the focus is on 2011.
Although early projections put the 2011 revenue shortfall at nearly $1 billion, Gronstal is hopeful they can shave that down to slightly less than the $600 million gap they faced in 2010. He does admit, it will be one of the biggest challenges they've ever faced.
"Only five years in the state's history we've actually seen a revenue decline and this by far is the biggest decline in the history of the state of Iowa. And we have a very serious challenge with the national economy and frankly the worldwide recession across the globe," Gronstal said.
Gronstal says every single area of state government will be cut. However, he says lawmakers will try to minimize the pain in three areas. They include education, state health care for children and senior citizens, and any programs or tax credits that create jobs in the Iowa.
"The challenge of that is at a time when working class families and middle class families in Iowa are tightening their belts we've got to tighten or belt too, so we're going to balance this state budget without tax increase," Gronstal said.
He says to balance the 2011 budget, they may have to dip into the state's $600 million projected reserve fund.
To avoid cutting additional state worker jobs, they're also looking at an early retirement program, which could produce savings of $50- to $60 million.
Besides the budget, another issue that could come up is gay marriage, but Gronstal says the legislature is comfortable with the Supreme Court ruling and is not anticipating debating it.