DES MOINES — A Republican plan to slash state spending by $290 million to help Gov. Chet Culver reach his goal of $341 million in general fund budget savings has been rejected by a House committee.
The House State Government Committee, which is working its way through a state government reorganization plan, voted down a proposal that called for elimination of one of the governor’s priorities and a number of savings rejected by majority Democrats last year as well as combining the administrative functions at regents universities.
“Look, we have a $1 billion budget gap. You can’t close that without making tough decisions,” said Rep. Chris Rants, R-Sioux City.
Rants, who is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Culver, noted the irony of offering an amendment to help the governor reach his goal.
“Republicans are here to work in a bipartisan way to get Iowa’s fiscal house in order,” he said before the plan was rejected 12-9 on a party line vote.
Senate File 2088, which senators approved 35-15 earlier this week, comes up about $263 million short of the general funds savings Culver is seeking, Rants said. He bases that on estimates from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency and widespread doubt lawmakers will approve Culver’s $50 million shift of Road Use Tax Fund dollars to the general fund.
The committee continued to work on SF 2088 into the evening, looking at several amendments that Chairwoman Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, indicated may increase the amount of savings. At an earlier meeting, Mascher declined to tell committee members her target, but said she wanted to come as close as possible to the governor’s target of $341 million.
“The bigger the better,” she said of the savings.
Mascher said the committee will meet again Thursday and possibly Friday to complete work on the bill, which is 255 pages and growing.
The Republican amendment identified the following savings:
• $92.3 million, end all state benefits to adult illegal immigrants
• $62 million, combine the administrative functions at the three regents universities
• $45 million, shift voluntary preschool responsibilities to Empowerment
• $25 million, eliminate Culver’s Power Fund and Office of Energy Independence
• $18.5 million, sell and privatize the state vehicle fleet
• $15 million, sell or lease the Iowa Communication Network
• $10.5 million, delay implementation of the core curriculum one year
• $6 million, cancel all regents university sabbaticals for one year
• $5 million, reduce funding for office supplies, service contracts, equipment purchases
• $4 million, eliminate taxpayer-funded lobbyists
• $2.25 million, eliminate Just Eliminate Lies anti-smoking campaign
• $2 million, eliminate family planning waiver
• $2 million, eliminate empty shelter care beds
• $1 million, eliminate Rebuild Iowa Office, shift responsibility to Homeland Security
Rants conceded the cuts would not have been pain-free.
“Do I like all of these cuts? No,” he said. “My concern is that if we don’t find the savings we either cut somewhere else or underfund K-12 education and shove the cost off onto the property taxpayer.”