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State one-year, two-year budgets at odds

By Staff | Apr 8, 2011

A two-year budget sounds like a great way to save money after all, it would keep anyone from spending more the second year. But how practical would it be?

That was a focus of concerns in last Saturday’s legislative town hall meeting at the Estherville Public Library Community Room when Rep. John Wittneben and Sen. Jack Kibbie discussed budgeting and other issues.

Kibbie said Gov. Terry Branstad was insisting on a two-year budget, a move he said would transfer legislative budget authority to the executive branch. “The legislature is set up to represent the people,” Kibbie said, citing his primary concern over the proposed two-year budget.

While a lot of states are looking at two-year budgets as a way of holding down costs, such a move may not be very feasible.

“For us to do a two-year budget we’d be dealing with imaginary numbers,” Wittneben said.

In another matter, Emmet County Auditor Michelle Erickson said one of her greatest concerns was infrastructure, such as funding for roads.

Kibbie said last year’s I-Jobs legislation obligates state gambling revenues. However, he said a better funding source would be the gas tax.

“The biggest thing for bridges and highways is the gas tax,” Kibbie said, noting that an 8-cent gas tax would raise $200 million 30 percent of which would be paid by out-of-state drivers.

Wittneben said though House Republicans are saying no to all tax or fee increases this year.

One example of a fee increase that people want to pay but can’t is on snowmobile registrations. Wittneben, who serves on the House Natural Resources Committee, said one bill would have doubled snowmobile registrations from $15 to $30 with the extra money going for trails. Wittneben said snowmobile organizations wanted the legislation; however, it was blocked from coming up on the House floor because it would have meant a fee increase.

Wittneben said he and Rep. Jeff Smith of Okoboji did manage to get a drunk boating bill through with the Senate passing a similar bill.

Kibbie said the bill applies the same penalties to impaired boating that apply to impaired driving on state roads.

Wittneben said the anti-gay marriage bill passed the Senate but didn’t make the floor in the House. In a related issue, he noted declining interest in impeaching the remaining four justices who agreed the state’s law defining marriage as between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

Kibbie said states that elect supreme court justices are finding the process highly partisan.

Joe Fitzgibbons, Estherville attorney who serves on the Iowa Judicial Nominating and Qualifications Commission, agreed. He defended the state’s current system of appointing justices, saying that states that elect justices place them in a position of having to ask for campaign funds from the very judges who argue cases before them.

John Semrad asked about ethanol use in the state.

Kibbie said about 70 percent of vehicles in Iowa burning gas use ethanol, noting that Minnesota had mandated that only ethanol be sold. While the legislature couldn’t support a mandate, Kibbie said current legislation would give incentives for E15 ethanol and B5 biodiesel.

Kibbie also commented on the proposed redistricting plan for both state and U.S. House seats. He said the current plan has fewer legislators thrown together than in any from the 1980, 1990, or 2000 censuses.

“To me, if this plan is turned down, it’s going to be the Republicans in western Iowa that don’t like their district,” Kibbie said. The proposed redistricting could pit U.S. House members Steve King and Tom Latham into a primary matchup against each other.

Kibbie said a series of meetings were scheduled around the state for public comment on the proposed redistricting.