Thursday, March 25, 2021

Senate Republicans propose $4 million spending increase to hire more prison guards

(Radio Iowa) - Senate Republicans are proposing a $4 million budget boost for the Iowa Department of Corrections to hire more correctional officers. Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver of Ankeny says Republican senators had settled on that increase before Tuesday's attack by an inmate that killed a nurse and a prison guard.

"The incident in Anamosa is an unspeakable tragedy for Iowans and the two Iowa public servants that lost their life," Whitver says. "Our thoughts and prayers certainly go out to them and their families."

Whitver says he and his fellow Republicans in the Senate will work with the agency's director to see if there are additional steps that should be taken, beyond more money to hire prison staff. Whitver unveiled the overall spending plan Senate Republicans have drafted on Wednesday. It would be a nearly eight billion dollar state budget for the next fiscal year and includes about $100 million in new tax cuts. Whitver says it's a starting point for negotitions with the governor and House Republicans.

"The sprint to the finish will start today with these budget targets coming out," Whitver said.

There's no agreement among legislators yet on one of Governor Kim Reynolds' priorities -- spending $150 million in each of the next three years to expand broadband in Iowa. Whitver says the Senate GOP's proposed budget is focused on ongoing state operations rather than one-time initiatives.

"We just wanted to keep broadband as a separate conversation that we'll continue to work with the House and work with the governor to make a significant investment in broadband," Whitver says, "and so this budget target should in no way reflect that we're not going to make a significant investment into broadband."

Whitver indicated lawmakers could wrap up all their internal negotiations and conclude the 2021 legislative session in the next few weeks.

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