Two state lawmakers expect the state budget to be the top priority for the upcoming session of the Iowa Legislature.
Iowa State Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson, and Iowa State Rep. Chuck Soderberg, R-Le Mars, discussed priorities at a legislative forum, which was hosted by the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.
The Chamber event at American Bank, in Le Mars, was attended by business people, service club members, local government leaders and staff as well as the public.
Soderberg and Anderson made references to the state's expenses and revenue throughout their hour-long update.
Anderson said a budget for health and human services in Iowa wasn't passed last year because an agreement couldn't be found on whether state tax dollars would provide state-funded abortions.
The issue is tied to requirements for the state to receive federal dollars.
"For me returning $5 million dollars to the federal government to save eight to 10 babies I'm okay with that -- I think we can find that money in our state budget," Anderson said.
He is in the minority party in the Iowa Senate and predicted his Democratic colleagues wouldn't agree.
"That's going to be an issue immediately when we come back into session because the Iowa Department of Human Services will have run out of money," Anderson said. "We'll have to come up with some type of appropriation until we pass the full budget."
Property tax reform was a budget issue Anderson said he didn't expect anything new on from Democrats in the state Senate this sessoin.
"I think they're going to stick with the tax credit versus an actual tax cut," he said. "I hope I'm wrong on that."
Soderberg pointed to the Iowa House and Senate's inability to resolve differences between proposals on tax reform last year.
"That continues to be a No. 1 priority for Gov. (Terry) Branstad; I would anticipate we'd see that again," Soderberg said.
He said it was "critically important that ongoing revenue equal ongoing spending" in any state budget that is passed.
"One-time money should not be used to fund ongoing programs," Soderberg added.
Lawmakers don't expect to be very many days into the 2013 session before the governor's spending and revenue plans are known.
"The governor's office said we will see his budget the second day of the session," Soderberg told people at the Le Mars legislative forum Wednesday.
Lawmakers convene Jan. 14.
Legislators are to act on the amount of growth schools may build into new budgets within 30 days after the governor's budget is presented.
The Iowa House intends to pass legislation to give schools figures for two-years of what is known as allowable growth in school budgets.
Actual funding for schools is on a per student basis.
Le Mars City Administrator Scott Langel asked for consideration of state dollars for roads, bridges and streets.
Anderson said legislation discussed last year to increase the gas tax and make some other reductions in conjunction with that may not be viable now.
"I do think some of the results and methods employed in the last election cycle have deteriorated the will of some legislators to actually support a gas tax increase," he said.
Soderberg said action in the U.S. Congress would also impact what's considered by Iowa lawmakers.
The possibility of an increase in the amount of the federal gas tax is being watched closely, Soderberg told the Le Mars group.
"The last thing we want is both a federal and state increase," he said. "You talk about impacting people -- the low-income people would be hit hard on that so we have to be very careful."
The area lawmakers were asked if a 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling on marriage between a man and woman had caused the Iowa Legislature to lose some legislative ability.
"We haven't," Anderson said "But we've got a roadblock and his name is Mike Gronstal; he wouldn't even allow it to come to the floor."
Gronstal is the Democratic leader in the Iowa Senate, where Democrats have the majority vote.
Anderson was referring to legislation to amend the Iowa Constitution to define marriage as between a man and woman.
Soderberg said the constitutional amendment question would need to be passed in two consecutive general assemblies before Iowans could vote on the issue.
As the time to meet in Des Moines approaches, Soderberg and Anderson encouraged those attending the forum Wednesday and other constituents to contact them.
People may stop at the Statehouse during the session, calling or use email.
During the upcoming session, the phone number to call Soderberg at is 515-281-3221. Anderson's number at the Iowa Senate is 515-281-3771.
They also plan to host many legislative updates in their districts during the session, Soderberg and Anderson said.