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State seeks budget ideas

BY MARLEEN LINARES | OCTOBER 15, 2009 7:20 AM

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Iowa residents can now send their suggestions on statewide budget cuts directly to their government.

Gov. Chet Culver has established a website specifically for public feedback to his 10 percent across-the-board cuts.

The recently established website allows anyone to anonymously leave a comment on how to make the state government more efficient and effective.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, and Sen. Staci Appel, D-Ackworth, who cochair the Legislature’s State Government Reorganization Commission, oversee the website.

Mascher said the idea came from the input received last year when the state first began to suffer from economic downturns.

“We got a lot of input from citizens last year, and we incorporated a lot of it [into our decisions],” she said. “So the governor established the website to get more ideas.”

The website, created last week, had more than 50 posts within its first day.

“Obviously, people have ideas and suggestions,” Mascher said. “We should look at them and scrutinize which ones are [possible].”

After last week’s announcement of 10 percent budget cuts, she said, state officials’ main goal is to avoid as many layoffs as possible. She said they are looking into ways to allow people to retire early.

UI political-science Associate Professor Frederick Boehmke said the site could be a good way of connecting Iowans to their legislators.

“It seems more useful to see what constituents are interested in,” he said. “It sounds like a way for [officials] to gather ideas while giving people ideas of what options would be considered and appreciated.”

UI President Sally Mason established a similar website in February to get budget suggestions from the university community.

To date, that website has had more than 78,000 hits and more than 500 suggestions, UI spokesman Tom Moore said.

“People are very willing to comment,” he said. “A lot of ideas have been proposed.”

Moore said officials have listened and acted on many of the suggestions posted on the site.

“The budget website generated a lot of good ideas, and they were implemented,” UI Provost Wallace Loh told The Daily Iowan in September.

Some of these suggestions include ways to conserve energy, which could save the UI millions of dollars, he said. The suggestions also led to the development of the university’s early retirement program.

Mascher said she is excited about the new way to get feedback.

“I hope people will take advantage and give us their input,” she said. “People who work can find ways we can improve.”

The website will stay up throughout the Legislature’s next session, which will begin Jan. 11, 2010.


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