The House passed the following appropriation budgets that have been sent to the Senate: Ag and Natural Resources, Justice System and Economic Development.

These appropriation budget bills fund different state departments and agencies. Approximately 20 percent of the state’s proposed $5 billion-plus budget for Fiscal Year 2007 are included in these bills.

The Justice System bill did not include funding for a new state prison. It is anticipated that funding for a study for a new prison will be passed later during the session. The Economic Development bill included a $250,000 increase for Iowa’s tourism industry. There are a total of 16 budget bills to be discussed. At this time there is a $200 million differential between the House leadership and the governor on the state budget.

A state law formula sets the limit for the general fund budget and the Legislature cannot appropriate more money than what the projected revenues are for that budget year. Many amendments to those budget bills are introduced that have the effect of exceeding those predetermined limitations, or breaking the budget.

Unfortunately, most of those amendments do not offer any revenue alternative and that leads to some political posturing suggesting that if you don’t vote for the amendment you are not supportive of that particular issue.

The majority party has the responsibility of passing the budget from its respective chamber. Both chambers then need to reconcile their respective budgets and present the joint budget to the governor for his consideration and signature enacting it into law. Considerable negotiation takes place in the process among both chambers and the governor and aside from all the rhetoric, the final budget is indeed a compromise.

The House has begun discussion of the education budget. House File 2346 was unanimously passed and it requires school districts to make tax and financial information more readily available to parents and taxpayers. School districts will be required to provide tax information before certifying any levy by a board or levy proposal to voters. In addition, the school must have a financial report available that includes how much money is spent from taxes raised and from both state and federal funding.

One issue that has been receiving attention from businesses and the state is the shrinking of our qualified and capable workforce. As the state population declines, so does our available number of workers needed to run those businesses. This has become a more serious problem than some people have realized.

As the state has been working to attract new businesses to Iowa to expand economic growth, many businesses are not willing to make the leap to Iowa because they fear not being able to find employees. I will continue to work on finding a solution to this serious problem.

The Iowa House passed a bill to increase the personal needs allowance for nursing home residents on Medicaid from the current $30 to $50 per month. Medicaid has strict limits on what it will pay for when a person is in a nursing home. Some items are not covered such as toiletries and personal snacks. The last time the allowance was raised was in the late 1980s. This increase does not have a significant impact on the state’s general budget.

On Wednesday the governor’s task force on TouchPlay issued its report. The bill to ban TouchPlay machines in Iowa is scheduled to be debated in the House on Tuesday. I have not come to a decision on this issue and would appreciate any input the citizens of the 83rd District have to offer on TouchPlay.

Visitors at the Capitol this week included Clinton County school superintendents, Eastern Iowa Rural Electric Co-op board members and leadership from several rural telephone companies of House District 83 who were here for their annual convention.

Always feel free to contact me on any issue before the Iowa Legislature. I can be reached at (515) 281-7179 during the week or by e-mail at steven.olson@legis.state.ia.us.

Republican Steve Olson of DeWitt is serving his second term in the Iowa House of Representatives. He represents House District 83, which covers portions of Clinton and Scott counties.