Local lawmakers weigh in on state budget battle - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local lawmakers weigh in on state budget battle


State budget battles are pushing Iowa legislators into their eighth week of overtime in Des Moines. The House and Senate have pitched their plans but each is controlled by a different party. Republicans have a majority in the House, while Democrats have a majority in the Senate.

Both have until July 1st to reach an agreement on the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, preventing a government shut down. It would be the first time that's ever happened in Iowa.

"We needed some time, we needed to talk to our constituents, talk to our families, hold hearings," explained Sen. Brian Schoenjahn (D-Arlington).

House Republicans and Senate Democrats have agreed on a total budget of $5.9 billion. But when it comes to splitting up the pie -- each side has different priorities.

"It's kind of a tug-of-war on who's going to get the last say on what the budget is," Rep. Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls) admitted.

Democrats say the state is doing better than expected, so they don't want to cut, or under-fund, certain programs.

"Mike Fitzgerald is showing us we'll be close to $1 billion in the black as of June 30," Schoenjahn said. "Why eliminate 37 Iowa Workforce Development centers when we have hundreds of Iowans without jobs?"

Republicans, on the other hand, believe any surplus should be saved, not spent.

"Right now it's just not a wise thing to be spending that," Rogers noted. "We don't know what's going to happen. There's floods on the Missouri River, there's a lot of things that could take place in the next year with the economy."

The House passed a budget last week. On Monday, Senators will hammer out their own plan. From there, the two sides will need to find a consensus before time runs out.

"Each side has been back and forth. Now it's time to find the common ground," said Schoenjahn.

"I think at the end of the day, we'll come together, hopefully, before July 1st, and make sure our government continues," Rogers added.

The governor has not laid out a contingency plan for a potential government shutdown. Legislators from both sides are expected to meet sometime Tuesday, after the Senate has voted on its version of a budget.

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